There’s something about being experienced that allows one to be at ultimate ease. While the young spread themselves too thin, draw attention to themselves, and dream of futures most likely never to be, those who have been around awhile have no problem taking it slow and enjoying the ride, knowing how rich the past has been and how promising the future may or may not be.
This laid-back vibe emanates richly from At Land’s Edge, a seemingly one-off LP dubbed by the duo M2, nee Ben and Roger Miller (not that Roger Miller, that Roger Miller), in 2009 and released last year on in-full-bloom Massachusetts label Feeding Tube. It’s got all the trappings of a traditional tool-shed, pseudo-noise platter, yet there’s more subtlety and patience at work than many of us weaned on Wolf Eyes are accustomed to, not to mention the existence of (somewhat) proper piano lines and phrases that provide an odd counterpoint to the slow, steady, assembly-line throb of guitar manipulations and effects (don’t know about you, but I keep waiting for those fingers to bust into a nimble version of “The Way it Is”). More impressively, Land’s Edge is an entirely improvised affair, despite what seems like a carefully planned array of strangely soothing sounds and clicks, bounces, and rrrrrips.
I write this knowing full well how many options there are in the world of off-kilter music these days. With so many abstract recordings to choose from, why is this LP-only release worth our time and effort? That’s an easy equation: Past triumphs (Roger’s membership in legends Mission Of Burma/Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic, Ben’s lesser-known, but no less viable, exploits; plus both were in Sproton Layer) + two lifetimes of staunch experimentation = improv gold purer than a million karats wrapped around a million rich ladies’ fingers.
Some of their tricks, individually, have already seen the light of day via other artists (the string-scraping thing is an old trick, etc.), but it all lumps into an original whole. My favorite sections have a bring-out-yer-dead quality to them, limping along in a dark alleyway as liquid electricity flies by and a lonely piano continues to tinkle every so often. “Pitch Lake,” the record’s centerpiece, in particular contains a striking juxtaposition of light and dark, waxing hopeful and excited yet filled to the brim with dungeon-dwelling dread. To reiterate my earlier point, this seeming contradiction couldn’t have been accomplished without the patience and knowing of its participants. In other words, you don’t just bang a tune like “Pitch Lake” out after a few beers in your cousin’s back-alley practice space. It takes timing, planning, and, considering it was fucking improvised, more than a little know-how in the realm of spontaneous creation.