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Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt - Made Out of Sound Music Album Reviews

Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt - Made Out of Sound Music Album Reviews
Refusing to be hemmed in by quarantine, the veteran improvisers took the unusual path of recording separately: drums first, then overdubbed guitars. The results are genuinely life-affirming.

Bill Orcutt spent the 1990s as a member of the experimental hardcore trio Harry Pussy, but since returning to music in 2009, he has mostly performed solo. His playing is a fountain of ideas; whether he’s on acoustic or electric, he generates enough notes to sound like an entire band. But something special happens when he partners with veteran improvising drummer Chris Corsano. Their last LP, 2018’s Brace Up!, featured 12 tracks that zipped by in 33 minutes, and each abrasive jam had its own character. Sometimes it came over as a noise-music spin on primal rock’n’roll—James “Blood” Ulmer covering the Ventures, say—and sometimes it veered into soundcape territory. You could hear Orcutt singing and moaning along as they bashed out the tunes in the room, capturing moments when his mouth realized where the music was going next before his fingers did. Its energy and playfulness had you wishing for another collaboration, and soon.

With Made Out of Sound, Orcutt and Corsano return with a slightly different kind of record. They recorded the album in 2020 during the pandemic, so instead of raising a holy racket together in one space, they played separately. Corsano cut his drum parts on his own and then sent them to Orcutt, who improvised while listening to what Corsano had laid down. In notes with the release, Ocrutt says, “I was watching the waveforms as I was recording, so I could see when a crescendo was coming or when to bring it down.” Orcutt overdubbed an additional guitar, relegating one to some notion of “rhythm” and another “lead,” though what you hear doesn’t match any conventional idea of that distinction.

So Made Out of Sound is a hybrid piece—improvised, but with advance warning of where the music is going, which brings an element of composition. And it turns out that this combination of approaches makes for some gorgeously life-affirming music. These pieces are certainly prettier and less aggressive than those on Brace Up!, and that’s mostly up to Orcutt. During more relaxed moments, they bring to mind the spindly probing of the Tren Brothers, the Dirty Three side project comprising guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White. Corsano’s free playing seems at all times to hover in the space between a steady beat, an explosive roll, an exploratory warm-up, and an ecstatic solo; he hits his kit with the same pace and force as their last outing, but here it’s a touch less pugnacious, perhaps owing to the room he recorded in. And Orcutt’s guitars are less cutting and sharp, with a warmer tone that rings and clangs while notes hang in the air, as if we are hearing a recording of a giant wind chime left outside during a hurricane.

Together, they make a rare kind of racket—music where the precise form is hard to apprehend while the obvious beauty comes pouring through. On “Some Tennessee Jar,” Corsano pays particular attention to cymbals, his hands falling on the metal in dense waves, as Orcutt plays a sustained repeating figure on one guitar while the other climbs up and down the neck to outline a melody that is exuberant yet shaded with a darker atonality. On “Thirteen Ways of Looking,” Orcutt creates a withering mass of bent notes, sometimes lurching higher for a single piercing tone, while his partner moves from dense pounding to light caresses on cymbals. And on “Man Carrying Thing,” Orcutt’s dual guitars solo furiously, either fusing into a single line or clashing dissonantly, while Corsano makes his snare and toms sound like a brick of fireworks exploding.

It’s a joyful noise. This is one of the more uplifting records of experimental music in recent memory. There’s something about how Orcutt and Corsano push each other that leads to work that pulses with the life force—these pieces bring to mind sunlight hitting a maple leaf, cells dividing under a microscope, a deep thirst quenched. Along with his 2019 solo album Odds Against Tomorrow, Made Out of Sound makes an excellent introduction to the gorgeous and challenging work of Orcutt’s second act.
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Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt - Made Out of Sound Music Album Reviews Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt - Made Out of Sound Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, April 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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