The Duo Dialog Edition: Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp and Others
Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp: The Island
I’ve recently been digging on quite a few stellar, guitar-heavy duo albums and it’s time to spread the word on some of these. First up is The Island, out on Trouble In Mind, the newest collaborative effort from guitarist Chris Forsyth and ambient synthesizer Koen Holtkamp. Together, their music is blissful, introspective and gorgeous. Having seen Forsyth play a couple times this year and unleash long, heavy-duty, Garcia-worthy guitar jams, it’s interesting to get this counterpoint of thoughtful beauty and Holtkamp adds the perfect dose of mind- spinning, ethereal sounds.
Brian Ellis & Brian Grainger: At Dusk
A couple weeks back, I featured Brian Ellis playing a deep, key-centric jazz in the RecommNed’d Escondido Sessions. This week the same guy is featured, this time playing a range of guitars and other accoutrements, accompanied by synth- man Brian Grainger. The album, At Dusk, out on El Paraiso, is pure loveliness: a relaxed and relaxing ambient playground. The sounds evoke the elegance of each season: the lazy warmth of summer, the crisp transition to fall, the white beauty of winter and the joyfulness of spring. This one is real magic. Highly recommended.
James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg: Ambsace
There is something magical about two guitarists playing together at a high level: a dialog and a dance; a flirtation and a friendly argument all at once. On their new album, Ambsace, James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg go through all of that and more with their two acoustic guitars. It helps that they’re good friends and it comes out in these songs where they just mesh perfectly, finishing each other’s sentences as it were and providing overall balance for each other. The result is instrumental folk at its most beautiful and easygoing. Timeless.
Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker: Land Of Plenty
Like the other duos featured in this week’s column, Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker were clearly meant to play together. Maybe even more than the three other terrific albums, their Land of Plenty is brimming with a certain musical love and mutual admiration. Maybe it’s because the album was recorded live over the course of a residency where an obvious resonance and chemistry was built. The two guitarists range over a course of styles from raga to blues to psych-out folk while this emotional connection stays true, many in the same song, like the epic 12-minute opening track. Each musician takes a different channel, giving the feel of sitting right in the room with them, but it’s not until the very end that the applause comes in, breaking a sort of spell and you realize it’s a live album at all.