Nick Fraser and Justin Haynes Are Faking It

All non-idiomatic improv has the potential to provoke the "faking it" tag among those who aren’t willing to listen. Most contemporary improvisers don’t put entertainment value high on their list of priorities when making music. This disc, however, is a lot of fun. Toronto drummer Nick Fraser can play either with great energy or great restraint, with lateral shifts into non-percussive ideas. Partner Justin Haynes is similarly inclined on guitar — he can be spiky and raw or completely swallowed up in effects. It’s not at all obvious who’s doing what, which keeps this from being a didactic guitar and drum improv set. When they focus on straight playing, they prove themselves rough and ready, such as the wild picking that marks "Taking the Fun Out of It." In order to put the fun back into it, they break out the tapes and electronics and this is where the real merriment lies. Their explorations here are both amusing and engaging, with a retro industrial feeling to them that recalls Sun Ra’s ’60s electronic ruminations or an action packed version of musique concrete. In these pieces, some as long as 13 minutes, both players twiddle furiously, Haynes sounding like his plucked strings are going to tear apart his guitar, Fraser seemingly wanting to pry open his kit to see what’s inside. It’s this sense of abandon throughout that sets this disc apart. (Independent)