Published Dec 16, 2008Five years since their first collaboration, NYC guitarist Alan Licht and cassette tape/effects magician Aki Onda continue their musical relationship for a good reason: they sound great together. Feeding off one another's gestures, they build arching long-form improvisations that are filled with colours, textures, and off-kilter looped rhythms.
Licht's guitaristics aren't based on rock hero licks; instead, he works mostly with drones and short motifs - filtered and processed to achieve an evocative vocabulary redolent with electrified raunch. Onda uses a table full of cassettes - like a diary of personal field recordings that he loops and modulates, ranging from sub-woofer throbs to glassy jangles.
Both musicians draw inspiration from experimental film, so it was natural to join forces with Toronto avant artist, filmmaker and keyboardist Michael Snow. And while Snow has a few decades on his cohorts, it was when he took the stage for the second set that things got seriously energetic and noisy.
Beginning with bold two-fisted piano chords and arpeggios, he quickly got positively skronky on his vintage analog Cat synth from which he pulled tones that seared, twittered and burbled. And Onda and Licht were immediately responsive, kicking out an evolving series of intertwining textures that locked with Snow's forays.
Despite the night's frigid temperature and bitter wind outside the Music Gallery, the threesome got a nearly full house, a testament partly to their drawing power and largely to the growing interest in this type of collaboration-through-improvisation.