Alan Licht & Aki Onda Everydays

[Family Vineyard; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: tape manipulations, pulsating ambience, drone
Others: Jed Speare, Can’t, Growing

The art of the collaboration is a tricky one. How two entities combine their self-contained id into a cohesive, symbiotic ego is still a mystery neither science nor man can dissect. In the medium of music, such combinations oftentimes prove volatile. It’s rare when two artists — no matter their shared sound and background — can communicate their vast ideas to each other in a copasetic tone. The tangled mess of the end product is left for fans to tear apart and interpret themselves.

Then we stumble upon Everydays, not only a tangled mess, but a gnarled piece of electronic-mashing and cassette-kneading from guitar virtuoso Alan Licht and manipulator extraordinaire Aki Onda. Out of the box, Everydays is a disaster with its anguished squeals backed by nails-on-chalkboard melodies — but it’s only a disaster if you were expecting Licht’s minimalistic tendencies to shape this latest collaboration. Rather than deliver a tangled mess of a tangled mess, Licht defers to his partner’s will, and the resulting chaos becomes beauty composed.

Licht’s name may be on the marquee of Everydays, but it's Aki Onda’s show to run, and his vision is truly inspiring. Keeping Licht’s guitar to a minimum and upping his reliance on electronics, Onda not only raises his own game, but shines a bright light on Licht’s other — rarely used — skills. When the duo decides to inject some of Licht’s guitar into the mix, such as on “Ship Shape,” the result is paralyzing. The sludgy riff looped over and over is no match for the brutality of Licht’s 6-string fury, as he lets the steel drone and squelch over Onda’s muddled manipulations.

Much of the barbarity of noise is left to “Ship Shape” and album closer “Be Bop,” for the rest of Everydays focuses on distorted dreamscapes of light, airy drone. “Chitchat” is an eerily calm drone occasionally interrupted by idle chatter and playfully warped sounds of trains coming to sudden stops, with wildlife scratching at the screen door. “Tiptoe” begins as a perverse take on Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict," before devolving into the familiar Licht minimalism that had been, until this point, cast aside in favor of sonic expansion.

Everydays is a rare treat. The vision of Onda and Licht is left uncompromised for the betterment of the album and the artists’ individuality. The result is an album that isn’t forced together like Siamese twins, but rather forged together by heat, hammer, and craftsmanship. The duo play off each other’s strengths while also facing down their weaknesses, and for that, Everydays is more than just an everyday collaboration as the title may imply; it's a benchmark for those seeking to expand their constrictive musical borders with their own olive branch.

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