One of my favourite labels of 2010 thus far has been Three Lobed Recordings, thanks in no small part to the amazing “Honest Strings” comp, in honour of Jack Rose, and the Hans Chew set I’ve been raving about these past few weeks.
More evidence arrived the other day in the shape of “Sand City”, a duo album between Steve Gunn, a guitarist whose “Boerum Palace” record got a few mentions from contributors here last year, and John Truscinski. I must admit I haven’t come across Truscinski before, but he seems to be a percussionist on the free/improv underground scene in the States, who sits in really well with Gunn’s fluid style.
The thing that struck one of my workmates when I put these deep jams on for the first time was the kinship to Sandy Bull and Billy Higgins’ playing on something like “Blend” and there’s undoubtedly a strong link in the way Gunn’s folk/raga explorations are carefully and imaginatively tracked by a jazz drummer. I can catch a little of Peter Walker and “Rainy Day Ragas”, too, which I’ve been meaning to mention again for a while, since it’s just been reissued after a pretty long period of orthodox unavailability.
Obviously, there are plenty of contemporary guitarists working in this zone; God knows I’ve covered dozens on this blog. Gunn is right up there, though, and there are some profound moments in “Wythe Raag” (too short at 13 minutes), when his guitar comes magically close to reproducing the calm ululations of a raga singer like Pandit Pran Nath.
All the while on “Wythe Raag”, Truscinski is working his way round his percussion tools, applying empathetic scrabble, rumble, roll and clang: I guess that reductive ideas of free drumming would suggest that such improvisations would detract from Gunn’s serene progress. But that’s clearly not the case. The best comparison I can make is with Chris Corsano, both in some of his mellower collaborations with Mick Flower and, especially, in his work in Rangda. “Wythe Raag” pairs up nicely with that band’s amazing “Plain Of Jars”: free devotional jams, where extreme virtuosity is carried off with a transcendental lightness of touch.