Recorded live in Switzerland, the duo Illogical Harmonies (Johnny Chang on violin and Mike Majkowski on double bass) team up with electroacoustic wizard d’incise on various recorded sound sources. All three musicians have a background in the international improv scene, and many of the hallmarks of the quieter end of that genre are in evidence here: gradual, tentative transitions, simple motifs, polyphony and a sense of interplay, and rough, sometimes gently abrasive timbres. Structure is present in a subtle way, tipping the music back and forth between very quiet to moderately loud, all with beautiful precision and control.
Chang and Majkowski play with the difference in pitch between their two instruments, often leaving a big hole between the former’s high-pitched tones and the deep, woody bass of the latter. This helps retain the classic improv impression of dialogue or toing and froing between two performers, showing how much current improv is still very much about playing (in the sense of playing an instrument) and the exchange of gestures as it is about sounds (wasn’t it an improviser who eschewed the noun ‘music’ in favour of the verb ‘musicking’?). D’incise’s played back recordings tend to fill in this void between low bass and high violin, without dampening the sense of interplay too much.
With the calibre of the musicians involved being as high as it is, however, this 40-minute set ends up being full of both lovely playing and great sounds — it’s not a matter of one or the other. The chromatic slides up and down at various points are a particular highlight, as are the gentle breezes of noise brought about by d’incise. Sometimes I’m left wanting just a little more to lift things out of the ordinary, but more often than not it’s enough just to sit back and enjoy some very good music.