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ernesto diaz-infante | chris forsyth | left & right | ucross journal

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Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth

Left & Right
Bottom Feeder/Pax / BF04/PR90227

Ernesto Diaz-Infante / guitar, Chris Forsyth / guitar

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Ernesto Diaz-Infante

Ucross Journal
Pax / BF04/Pr90249

Two wildly different recordings from Diaz-Infante, and not just separated by their instrumentation. “Left & Right” is a series of duets constructed by a trading of tapes between Diaz-Infante and Forsyth, the latter laying down complementary tracks on top of the former’s improvisations; “Ucross Journal” is a series of solo piano compositions created during Diaz-Infante’s residency at something called the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.

The music on “Left & Right” falls into the same genre as that played by Caspar Brotzmann or Thurston Moore. It is, in other words, a continuation of the tradition spanning Hendrix and Sharrock, a tradition of “blizzards of noise”, textural walls of sound which are far removed from other guitar traditions. This kind of thing can be great or awful, depending on how good the musicians are at playing a patient game with one another, and that in turn depends largely on whether this style of playing is what they really do or whether they’re secretly dying to break out into a screaming solo.

The music, on this occasion, is splendid. Forsyth and Diaz-Infante clearly understand one another and have that sensitivity which such loud, abrasive music requires. Instead of competing over volume, technical wizardry or prominence, they co-operate. The fact that their performances were separated not only in time but also by a whole continent may have had a lot to do with facilitating this relatively ego-less manifestation of a usually horribly egocentric instrumental combination. What’s also nice is that, title notwithstanding, the two tracks are combined together rather than being panned hard left and right as these things sometimes are. The upshoit is that the identity of the performers matters less than the success of the whole.

“Left & Right” is at times a ferociously loud and dissonant record; its companion release, “Ucross Journal”, could hardly be more different. The pieces here have an open tonality which is perhaps intended to conjure up the wide, flat landscapes which feature so prominently in the titles; all are short, with none of the thirty tracks reaching three minutes.

Week One consists of six pieces made up of chords which seem as self-sufficient as stones, coming one after another at slow, processional rhythms. These remain a feature of the works which follow, all of them as Feldmanesque as the track to which Diaz-Infante applies this term: simple, gestural rhythms sit atop them, or they get broken up rhythmically to create arpeggios or bass lines. Occasionally things get a little more dissonant, but always with that sense of notes hanging calmly in the air. Never does effort seem to enter into this music.

“Left & Right” is for all those who enjoy inventive sonic experimentation by guitarists; textural to the point of sounding almost electronic at times, it’s a very fine piece of work indeed. Sitting listening to “Ucross Journal”, on the other hand, can give the impression of the pianist having nodded off at the keyboard. That blissed-out snooziness makes very attractive background music, which is perhaps exactly what music inspired so strongly by landscape ought to be. “Left & Right” is unconditionally recommended; if you enjoy post-minimalism of the Feldman school, then “Ucross Journal” will probably float your boat too. Richard Cochrane