Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bill Frisell - Silent Comedy (Tzadik, 2013)

It is exciting to hear guitarist Bill Frisell stepping outside of the comfort zone of his well worn "Americana" context. What at first seemed like an interesting arena for him to explore has become something of a box that has hemmed in his more adventurous instincts, developing into a series of pleasant but forgettable albums. This however, is different as he sits solo and improvises on electric guitar in real time using effects and loops to create an otherworldly and at times quite caustic sound world. "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home" demonstrates many of the techniques he will use on this album, juxtaposing blasts of snarling feedback with ominous silence, and developing a taught narrative which builds to an eerie strummed finale. "Babbit" develops science-fiction like sounds, sending coded signals out into the cosmos, with a lot of reverberation attached, and looping that makes the music unusual and very fresh. Grating feedback opens "Lake Superior" giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen. He's getting close to Nels Cline territory here, which is very exciting to hear. Waves of pure sound crash against the listener in a majestic manner, downshifting to a sinister and portentous shade but never quite resolving, leaving the listener with a vague sense of unease. "The Road" continues to mine the vibe of uneasy apprehension, setting up a looped drone for Frisell to drop processed notes against. This performance has a late night and cinematic feeling to it as if it could be used to build tension in a crime drama set on dark and forlorn streets. I enjoyed this album quite a bit. I have always been a Frisell fan, but have been a little disappointed by some of his recent albums which have focused on the pastoral aspects of his style. This goes in an entirely different direction and is a bracing set of powerful, challenging improvisations that are awash with fascinating ideas executed in a spirited fashion. Silent Comedy -

Send comments to Tim.