The meeting of Tim Hodgkinson (B-flat clarinet) and Milo Fine (“junior” drums, B-flat clarinet, piano and a little shouting towards the end) occurred at the latter’s house in an afternoon of 2007, their only moment of freedom from a festival in which Hodgkinson was performing as a member of a participating ensemble. The paragraph where Fine describes the circumstances surrounding that (largely) artsy-fartsy parade – together with the related issues of rampant careerism, human failure and “thinly veiled desperation” underlying the social aspects of that kind of event – is a literary spectacle in itself, an uncommonly direct declaration of disgust for what one must endure to survive in (or trying to escape from) the universe of so-called “modern art”.

As far as real music is concerned, there’s plenty of it in Teshuvah. Two dynamic investigators are heard looking for any possible trace of significance – even where there doesn’t seem to be anything at all – by way of impressive surges of instrumental interaction. Acute intellect and utter sensitiveness are gifts shared by the protagonists, which they’re not ashamed of showing. Seeking for combinations useful to devise instant narratives, the artists interlock horns (make that reeds) and push into each other, fighting in the flames of congenial dissonance amidst briefer sketches informed by a calmer type of dialogue.

In particular, Hodgkinson’s playing is permeated with a blend of finesse and conflictual fragmentation, resulting in fluxes of rippling-in-the-rocks complications occasionally debouching in inland lakes of lyricism (of the sugar-free variety). The sounds are corrosive and punctiliously delivered, not a note perceived as out of context throughout. Via different instruments – often played at once – Fine showcases the facets of a complex self. With the clarinet, his improvisational urgency and the rawer side of feeling are both visible; on percussion, he frequently discharges an uncontrollable energy, similarly to the frantic happiness of a schoolboy who’s just passed a feared test. On piano, the man is alternatively profound and articulate – just like in his writing, we should add – while maintaining a binomial of unorthodox anti-patterning and dismembered harmonic tissue alive and kicking.

This non-formulaic duo’s regulated unlawfulness – entirely evident in this hastily organized single session – is too difficult to portray in a stupid review. Suffice to say that four thorough listens are still leaving me guessing about what this stuff really implies, on many levels. What I do know is that the will of returning to the starting point is concrete, and looks like it’s not going to disappear anytime soon.

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