Bill Horist / Jacob Riis ~ The Cessation Elegy

coverThe elegant cover exudes maturity.  One imagines 24-karat gold leaf and the scent of aged pine.  Unusual as this may sound, it’s not far off the mark.  Bill Horist is an alumnus of Master Musicians of Bukkake, while Danish Jacob Riis is a well-known innovator.  What happens when solo guitar meets solo laptop?  For one, it’s no longer solo.  Mutual admiration led to a shared tour, and the shared tour led to this collaboration.  Warm guitar works alternate with manipulated tone works, and the result is a diverse album that plays to the strength of each.

Horist’s guitar opens the album unadorned, traveling a faintly marked raga road.  Meanwhile, a spectral drone lurks in the background, occasionally poking its head through the strings.  As it turns out, this is a sign of things to come.  Not until the fourth piece will we hear this sort of guitar again, but when we do, it comes as a reminder of the humanity behind the wall of sound.  One might think, “Oh, it’s a cowboy by a fire”, until one hears the other noises, symbols of the creatures in the dark behind the light of the flames.

Riis’ manipulations change Horist’s sound into something otherworldly.  Standout piece “The Hidden Terms of Cessation’s Elegy” sounds like a plane’s long, slow takeoff.  At the end, deep notes rise into a cloud of trembling bass like engines.  What was melodic becomes harmonic, multi-toned and fierce.  “Fibrillate – Wishes of the Last Twitch” switches from drone to stuttered electronic with a sound like chimes floating in ice; then the track shifts again, to dissonant abrasion, like an angry vacuum cleaner refusing to die.  The variety is a boon, as one never knows what to expect next.  This disc will yield no hits, but that’s fine.  Cosmic meanderings (“Who Mourns the Talus Dead?”) and experiments in noise (“Engines of Exposures Unborn;”) are enough to occupy adventurous listeners.

When Horist’s clear-cut strings emerge once more in the final track, they do so shyly, as if asking, “Is it safe to come out now?”  It is indeed, but the beauty has been in the danger.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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