Uncle Woody Sullender & Kevin Davis The Tempest Is Over

[Dead CEO; 2007]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: free improv
Others: Jackie-O Motherfucker, Pauline Oliveros

If life has taught me one thing, it's to not trust men who call themselves your uncle, despite a lack of blood or marriage relation. That lesson holds up pretty well for The Tempest Is Over. Uncle Woody Sullender and Kevin Davis is a duo with a lineup straight out of my Goofy Lineups Made up by High Schoolers handbook. That’s right: they’re a free improv banjo and cello combo. Now, can I be honest here? I giggled when I first read it. But then I realized that with actual musicians behind such a lineup, it could be really interesting. The problem with an instrumental banjo/cello duo is that’s about as far as most people are going to get: “instrumental banjo/cello duo.” It’s just not for everyone, and I think Unc and K. D. probably realize that.

This is the kind of music that requires Everests of patience, especially with an average track length of six-and-a-half minutes. Of course, a need for patience comes with the free improv territory, not to mention the fact that the palette of sounds and textures for virtually any duo is going to be pretty limited. I realized this all up front and was really eager to give this a shot and to challenge myself. But, hey, remember that free improv banjo we were talking about? Eh, it can be kind of annoying over a 43-minute album. In fact, sometimes the fevered, willed-destruction noises of the banjo are truly trying. For an album so devoid of typical musical tropes and asking so much of the listener, The Tempest Is Over offers little in return. Hints of melody only arrive very late in the game, and then only briefly. Concept triumphs over content, and we’re left with an album that isn’t too fun to listen to.

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