You already know what we’re talking about here, don’t you? That’s right – ear-cleansing dronage, with added flavors by violin and cello (by Yeh and Lee) zigzagging, scraping and compulsively sawing their way through monolithic agglomerates of unmoving notes. Wesseltoft’s harmonium, shruti box and organ built the foundations together with Courtis’ guitar-cum-electronics, the latter also the reason behind some serious slashing with slacked strings.
The contiguity (and relative dissolution) of contrasting personalities in what could be easily called “trance” music represents, at least in this particular occasion, a major asset. For example, the manner in which an artist such as Okkyung Lee – mostly known for an ungovernable propensity to eject bazillions of pitches with almost implausible facility during an improvisation – lends her “reiterative” action to this venture is decidedly estimable.
However, what emerges besides the circumstantial appearances of vociferous abrasions, mantric choirs and schizoid fragments is the persuasiveness of a cohesive unit pushing the collective sound towards the same heights of intensity previously reached by people like, say, Tony Conrad in his finest moments. The semi-camouflaged vocal contributions by Yeh add a touch of social anthropology to the recipe, but there’s no danger of letting the flow slip into mainstream ritualism. The sonic tissue and its blood vessels are there for our perceptiveness to see; the diversification of nuances inside what appears as a single skull-numbing current remains manifest end-to-end.
A mere tone might differentiate the two drones from a side to another, but the kernel of the analysis does not change: Cold / Burn is one of the most mesmerizing records I’ve heard in recent times, vigorously compelling and bad in equal doses. Strongly suggested for a much-needed suffocation of futile intellectual deceptions.