David Thomas Broughton vs. 7 Hertz David Thomas Broughton vs. 7 Hertz

This is a tough nut to crack for several reasons. Firstly, there’s the decision of where, categorically, it belongs. David Thomas is a singer-songwriter from Leeds, UK, whose acoustic guitar and singing style would suggest an elderly troubadour from the 16th century instead of a mid-20-something performer with a love of loops. After a couple of well-received solo efforts on Birdwar/Plug Research, he joins his label-mates, improvisational quartet 7 Hertz, for one off-the-cuff afternoon of "jamming” in St. Mark’s Church in Leeds. The four long pieces, plus an interlude, are thrilling, frustrating, enthralling and annoying at various turns. The quartet surround Broughton’s guitar with two violins, double bass and low register clarinet that nicely describe the room they inhabit. The singer interjects fragments of song, ultimately building things with layers of samples, as on opener "Weight of My Love,” where a central phrase replays as the crescendo is built and sustained to the song’s conclusion, though it’s a lengthy one. And that’s a make or break element that will divide listeners: preserve the long, long original take or edit for strength? The group chooses the former unilaterally, even when it means a short-circuiting amplifier sputters static through the middle section of "Fisted Hand.” There is so much beauty and nimble interplay that would likely be lost in paring these down that this decision is easily defensible. As for the woe of classification, well, improvised means "experimental.” So here it is, folk warts and all. (Acuarela)