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Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt: Made Out of Sound (Palilalia)

Review of the third album by the guitar/drums duo

Cover of Bill Orcutt/ Chris Corsano album Made Out of Sound
Cover of Bill Orcutt/ Chris Corsano album Made Out of Sound

Guitarist Bill Orcutt and drummer Chris Corsano are no strangers to making unity out of disunity, but on their third release as a duo, they achieve that in a surprising way. Orcutt’s layers of guitar scrawl and Corsano’s fulminating drums were recorded separately, then merged via the former’s computer. Recalling various noise merchants as well as the Allman Brothers Band’s turbulent crescendos and bits of Shut Up ’n Play Yer Guitar-era Frank Zappa, Made Out of Sound blasts toward outer space in a ceaseless state of acceleration/deceleration, morphing/mining, exploding/expanding, calm/combustion. How the two musicians are so in sync given the separate-studios nature of the recording is remarkable. Though the themes within the music tend to overlap and repeat, the duo’s ability to present a clear vision that seems to glow from within remains unique.

Divided into seven tracks on the vinyl edition, Made Out of Sound is nonetheless a single performance, with one track flowing into the next. Orcutt’s dual guitars sound louder than Corsano’s drums, which are more subdued in terms of recording level if not performance dynamics. Their twin spirits collide; Orcutt at times recalls a bluegrass picker or an ecstatic whirling dervish, while Corsano dry-heaves the rhythms one second and smashes cymbals and toms the next, his inventions non-ceasing. The two players often merge into one, as you can hear in the reverberating drums and twinkling guitar of “Thirteen Ways of Looking,” or the gentle if unkempt expansiveness of “Distance of Sleep.” The sound of endless unfurling.           

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.