Tong a few logs onto the fire and switch on the turntable. If either of the names GUNN or GANG(-LOFF) on the album art above strike a gong in your musical memory, you know what to expect from the very first note of their collaborative recordings: pristine phrases plucked from an acoustic guitar, bowed from a fiddle, and pounded out of percussion; “songs” that wind through the underbrush, achieve moments of meditation, and double back to return home; a holy amalgam of performance strategies culled from the American Primitive, Indian classical, and contemporary drone/minimalist traditions. Steve Gunn and Mike Gangloff deepened their already bottomless catalogs in 2013 with the solo full-lengths Time Off and Poplar Hollow, funneling ideas and tones they’ve explored in Kurt Vile’s live band and Pelt, respectively, into more concise compositions. As much as these albums testify to their strengths as songwriters and bandleaders, both men perform as comfortably outside of set rhythms and chord structures as within them, with results no less sublime.
Melodies for a Savage Fix finds the duo stranding themselves in a secluded cabin sanctuary and making music to strand oneself in a secluded cabin sanctuary to. The album’s five sessions range from a country-fried raga exploration led by Gangloff’s sighing fiddle, to a banjo/guitar bluegrass jugalbandi, to a slide guitar in conversation with cavernous gong hits. But the seventeen minutes of “Topeka AM,” streaming below, fill most of the B-side with the LP’s most expansive improvisation, exuding enough heat to stay warm through the subzero season(s). Snow gathers in the windowsills while Gunn’s right hand conjures a busy stream of twelve-string sixteenth notes that treads the tonal line between ecstasy and reverence. Panes frost over as Gangloff responds to Gunn’s shifting harmonies with whatever instrument he deems appropriate at the moment (harmonium, bells, shakers, drums). The few rays of sunlight cast across the floorboards recede as the tempo picks up before the climax.
Melodies for a Savage Fix is available now from Important Records.