Flower-Corsano Duo The Radiant Mirror

[Textile; 2007]

Styles: improvisational, psychedelic, experimental, drone
Others: Vibracathedral Orchestra, Acid Mothers Temple, Ashtray Navigations, Sunroof!, Terracid, Sunburned Hand Of The Man

If you've been paying attention lately, you know the pair of Mick Flower and Chris Corsano have been gaining quite a following for their impressive live shows. I wouldn't know, unfortunately; I'm just relaying what I've heard. For most people who follow experimental music, the mere mention of the name ‘Corsano' triggers a buy-download impulse/wet jeans. Corsano is undoubtedly one of the most well-regarded drummers among his peers, so you know what you're going to get from him. On the other side, you've got a founding member of the UK's Vibracathedral Orchestra. I've heard they aren't too shabby either.

You can exclude me from the lovefest that was the critical response to last year's A Rock in the Snow, a three-way skronk-off between saxophonist Paul Flaherty, Spencer Yeh and Chris Corsano. I like the duo of Flaherty and Corsano, to an extent, but that album was okay at best. So, let's swap out the vocal noise and saxophone blurts for the Japanese banjo and see what happens. The name 'banjo' seems a little misleading here, as it's hard to hear anything that even sounds like a banjo once it's been given a good dose of Mick's pedal treatment. It has the twang of a sitar and reminds me of Emerald Cloud Cobra with an affinity for amplification and Kawabata Makoto.

As soon as the first note of that Japanese banjo reaches my ears on the opener "Earth," the memory of A Rock in the... what's the rest of it called again? Gone. There must be zero floor space wherever these guys recorded this one from all of Flower's pedals. With the delays and looping it sounds like there's four guys jamming together after consuming way too many drugs. After a few minutes of build-up from Corsano's kit he gets into a steady, simple, effective, head-nodding rhythm that slowly morphs into something more complex, while retaining a semblance of the previously heard rhythm. Meanwhile, Mick's going nuts on the banjo over the top of his own droning guitar noise.

"Wind" has Mick bowing his instrument along with some great hand drumming and bass drum work by Corsano, and what sounds like chimes every so often. It feels a lot more structured than the beginning of "Earth," taking into account how solid and patterned the drumming is, plus it lacks the balls-out shredding that was previously witnessed. "Wind" is slower, methodical, tribal, and brilliant. The gorgeous last few minutes of the piece center around a drone loop and what sounds like pungi snake charming music in the background, with the percussion taking a back seat.

The nearly 20-minutes-long "Fire" revisits similar ground as the first track. This time though, it finds Mick getting into more of a groove, rather than simply trying to melt the guitar wires by playing as fast as possible (not that I take issue with him doing so). The drumming is sporadic and dynamic, which is working wonders in preventing me from being drawn into a trance by that banjo, despite Mick's best efforts.

If this album misses any year-end best of lists... I won't be surprised, but if you dig great improvisational music with some gusto (and maybe some hallucinogens), you owe it to yourself to give The Radiant Mirror a few spins.

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