Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow expands upon the template of the first Alan Licht-Tetuzi Akiyama Trio, with guest Oren Ambarchi, which convened to play a set at the 2004 New Zealand festival, as documented by a 19 minute 3″ CD titled Willow Weep And Moan For Me.
Ten years later Ambarchi returned to help realise “Blues Deceiver” (20:47), the first cut on the studio-recorded Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow. The album’s second cut, “Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow” (18:52), features Chicago Underground’s Rob Mazurek.
The two tracks compliment each other so well that the album plays as a single suite. “Blues Deceiver” is a close-textured guitar trio, a weave of fluctuating feedback frequencies and trace elements of the blues with sympathetic electronics. “Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow” expands on that, with Mazurek’s cornet injecting emotive warmth and lyricism.
Alan Licht is from New York’s avant-garde rock scene. Since playing in both Blue Humans and Run On in the early 90s he’s collaborated on projects with Lee Ronaldo and Loren Mazzacane-Connors, among others (he played alongside Mazurek in the gloriously abrasive Mandarin Movie).
Tetuzi Akiyama came up at about the same time. He was a member of Keiji Haino’s Nijiumu, and played in Hikyo String Quintet before forming a guitar duo with the quintet’s cellist, Taku Sugimoto. He’s since maintained that relationship and developed numerous others, mostly through duo and trio partnerships.
Since the acclaimed solo album Route 13 the Gates of Hell: Live in Tokyo (Headz, 2005), which was half country blues, half plugged-in boogie, the Akiyama recordings I’ve heard have been primarily acoustic or electro-acoustic, such as those by Oslo/Tokyo electro/acoustic improvising quintet Koboku Senjû, and an album of beautifully spartan acoustic guitar duets with Anla Courtis, Naranja Songs (Public Eyesore, 2008). Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow sits nicely alongside those albums, but Licht’s background definitely exerts its influence too.
“Blues Deceiver” is a rich concoction of thin and attenuated sounds, volatility maintained under careful control. It’s hard to tell who’s playing what, and lines merge and converge such that any impression that inputs can be teased apart is soon dispelled. It’s an oily water sound: chiming bell tones, wobbly high-pitch drone, wiry finger-picking and tensile sustains subject to distortion and overdrive effects all in the mix, with the latter incrementally predominant as volume gradually swells without threatening a surge. The effect is rather alienating, but totally compelling. Imagine tuning in to the flux of currents running through outback telephone wires. The blues is always present, but only as a hauntological after-image.
“Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow” begins in much the same vein, but with Licht and Akiyama clearly separated, one playing in a thinner, higher register, the other bottom crawling. The pace is slow-drag, but too unstable to be torpid. Rob Mazurek comes in after six minutes, strikingly rich and tonally direct in contrast, albeit muted. He plays in clear, circumscribed phrases, and the guitars are drawn into relatively tuneful responses. The effect is melancholic, but also lyrical. While one of the guitars sustains a simmering threat of low-key abrasion, the other insinuates a sense of rhythm. The tension between ambience and unease is played out beautifully.
Mazurek’s involvement shifts the whole dynamic. Credit that to the adaptability of the Licht-Akiyama duo, which plays on many formal tensions regardless of others’ inputs. Where Mazurek (re)connects their pared-back art rock to the non-tradition after Miles Davis as Dark Magus, Ambarchi’s presence on “Blues Deceiver” tips the balance the other way, into something altogether more elusive and unsettling.
Alan Licht guitar, electronics; Tetuzi Akiyama guitar; Oren Ambarchi guitar on “Blues Deceiver”; Rob Mazurek cornet on “Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow”.
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