Since the dissolution of one of my favorite noise/drone acts of the 2000s, the incomparable Double Leopards, founder Marcia Bassett has continued to release infrequent yet superb recordings under her solo alias Zaimph, with these particular collections stripping away the density that came with the Leopards’ collaborative barrage into something balancing that project’s crunching cacophony with a more explicit, singular minimalism. Samara Lubelski, on the other hand, has left her imprint in many varying musical modes over the course of the last decade, releasing material that stretches everywhere from contemplative instrumentals to more folk-pop endeavors, as well as working as a session player and producer. While I’m more unfamiliar with her solo output than I am with Bassett’s, Lubelski’s appearances on records as disparate as Mouthus’ The Long Salt and Thurston Moore’s Trees Outside The Academy — where her gorgeous string arrangements made for a particularly welcome melodic counterpart for Moore’s angular, melodic tunes — offer substantial proof that she is an artist comfortable with partaking in diverse shades of musical exploration. This ability thus implies what is sure to be a synergistic coherence on this collaborative recording with Bassett, the first for the duo and an affair rooted in both musicians’ distinguished avant inclinations. And, as predicted, these two long-form pieces recorded in Brooklyn circa 2010 and presented here on vinyl as Sunday Night, Sunday Afternoon via Graham Lambkin’s Kye imprint have the distinction of sounding both acutely composed yet defiantly unrestrained.
The first side opens with subtle sustained textures rendered via EBow on Bassett’s guitar, which patiently tremble under the surface, as if preparing to thoroughly penetrate the surrounding empty space at any given moment, but held in a state of limbo. As Lubelski’s violin swells underneath, a layer of compressed hum from Bassett’s instrument ebbs in and out of the contrasting channels, which soon initiates a synergistic drone where the treated strings carefully cooperate with an admirable modesty and restraint. The melodic temperament is of a forlorn constitution, a particularly penetrating aura of sadness hanging around the connected tones with an almost cinematic anxiety. While discussions of drone often abuse the Fripp/Eno comparison, there is certainly a noticeable affinity for their collaborative efforts on this piece, with Bassett’s warm, lightly fuzzed guitar timbres and Lubelski’s unending, chant-like landscapes emerging from her violin hinting at the interplay of a composition as masterful as “The Heavenly Music Corporation.” Perhaps an even more apt comparison is the August 1974 double album by 70s Japanese drone ensemble Taj Mahal Travelers, particularly in Bassett and Lubelski’s parallel concern and attentiveness of the empty, silent spaces that are emphasized as the instruments slowly decompress downward into stark quietude. Unlike her work in Hototogisu or as Zaimph (for the most part), there is a greater insistence on understatement reeling forth on this side, the unbroken density of those often voluminous and abrasive projects replaced in favor of an aura both subdued and gently ominous.
The piece encompassing side B, which was recorded a little over a month later, pursues an analogous methodology, with the guitar and violin interplay resonating with an ostensibly more assured connection. The disquieting demeanor and alignment with the sparse expanses of the previous piece are in concurrent abundance, but there appears to be more pronounced control at work over the flowing reverberations of Bassett’s and Lubelski’s instruments, particularly around the middle of the piece, where their resounding drones glide swiftly, their humming pitches resting at an untroubled pace. While more composed perhaps than side A, it does seem to lack the slight unpredictability that was encountered at the beginning of the record, with the false codas and nimble silences replaced with a comparatively unhesitating drive.
This collaboration divulges its incredible expanses and delicately menacing interplay with an increasingly satisfying audaciousness upon each subsequent listen. While both sides of this record forge forth from a common affinity, this consistency is remarkably confident and steadfast; both musicians would do well to further this partnership.