On paper this could appear as an improbable coupling: the meticulously detailed, painstakingly assembled “hyper-realist symphonies” of seamed-and-altered samples of Noah Creshevsky versus the ostensibly low-budget, ceaseless search for the “previously unheard disconcerting differentiation from the canons” of Al Margolis/If, Bwana. Yet in the tangibility of this album – which basically alternates pieces from the two composers without joint efforts – everything works. The four tracks by Creshevsky are pure stimulus for the brain, representations of frames of minds bathed in semi-liberal compositional smartness. Cloned violins get transformed into spills of mocked commonplaces and joyously rapturous apartness, while the combination of a chuckling woman and bionic orchestral cadenzas (such as the exceptional “Shadow Of A Doubt”) is the means to enjoy the best of both worlds, prickly paradoxical irony in a polymorphic gatecrash of academic sterility’s forbidden rooms.
Margolis, on the contrary, appears as the “restrained constituent” of the record – but only on a superficial listen. His radiation is evolutionally cancerous, in that it seems to implant cells of awareness in the psyche of a listener who’s ready to absorb the expected but really can’t handle the different reactions derived from a confrontation with the bitterness of uninviting, if meaningful secretions. In those hands, a piano becomes a small factory emanating fumes of metallic poisons, an improvising voice looks like an element of disturbance rather than a coherent presence – yet that very incidence is exactly what defines the memorisable meaning of that context.
What remains at the end is the broken-frame portrait of two atypical musicians, unclassifiable experimenters whose sonic art refuses that sugar coat of certainty which prevents progress from following its apparently illogical itinerary.