Tim Berne has developed a rather distinct approach to composition and performance. His tart alto saxophone charges through convoluted lines that baffle anyone who attempts to discern the time signature. Eventually it’s better to get lost in the melodies themselves anyway. While some degree of notoriety has been heaped on Mr. Berne, the same can’t be said for guitarist Marc Ducret. A collaborator with the alto player since his Bloodcount days, Ducret has clearly demonstrated that he is ready for prime time. Borrowing some volume tricks from Bill Frisell and a flair for metallic clatter from Marc Ribot, Ducret welds these elements together with a gift for fast fretwork that puts him in his own league. Drummer Tom Rainey seems to be showing up on numerous albums. In the company of these two, he proves enthralling when listening closely to him and the way he responds to the writing and aggressive work of his collaborators.
The synergy of Big Satan—Berne, Ducret and Rainey—is on full display on Livein Cognito, a two-disc live set. The herky-jerky and the ungrounded qualities of the music sometimes make things blend together. “Deadpan” and “L’ombra Di Verdi,” for example, appear in that order and sound like one extended piece, despite the fact that each came from different band members. But the trio surges with such determination that they eventually win back any lost souls. Among the highlights, the second of the two tracks called “Untitled” (they appear to have different themes) begins with Ducret manipulating feedback drones and knobs for a harmonic moment. On “Mr. Subliminal,” Berne emits a sustained, high-pitched shriek that, rather than raising the hair on your neck, acts almost like a hypnotic siren song. The whole band blows minds as they slam into the final of “Ce Sont Les Noms Des Mots” after building to a crescendo. Say amen, somebody.