“The Wire” Vignes Review (July 2009 issue)

The Wire talks about Vignes

In 2003 Rod Poole, Los Angeles based British expat guitarist, microtonal musician and tireless archivist of the local improvised music scene, decided to stop performing live. A sad loss, but not as tragic as Poole’s death four years later in a senseless road rage stabbing outside a fast food joint in Hollywood. He left behind barely half a dozen albums, which makes the release of this follow-up to 2002’s Incus studio session Acoustic Guitar Trio ali the more welcome. There are plenty of notes from Poole and fellow guitarists Nels Cline and Jim McAuley in these three tracks, recorded live in Los Angeles in July 2003 – hardly surprising from musicians who are open to the influence of, without ever simply aping, the idioms of free jazz, folk, rock, blues and bluegrass, evident from Cline’s work with Wilco, or McAuley’s splendid The Ultimate Frog – but the music is never gabby or nervous. From time to time, one of the guitarists settles into a rocking ostinato and lets his partners take the initiative, though it’s never a simple question of solo and accompaniment; the relationship between foreground and background is in constant flux, and as subtle as the tuning systems decided on by the musicians prior to performance. “Our methodology was quite simple,” recalls Cline. “Make up a tuning on the spot for each improvisation, look around at each other to find the nods and grins of agreement that meant that a promising tuning combination had been arrived at, and go.” Microtonallmprov, particularly from the Mat Maneri stable on the other side of the United States, can often be terse and forbidding, but that’s not the case here. There’s even [oom for recognisable harmonic progressions and singable melody. Vignes isn’t a heated argument, though things do get fiery from time to time, but a mature, intelligent conversation between three fine musicians. Part of the fun of listening is trying to work out who’s playing what, but it’s far from easy. For the record, Cline is left of centre, McAuley’s distinctive kalimba-like preparations are in the middle, and Poole, who handles the bowed work, is towards the right of the stereo mix. Ultimately doesn’t matter much. (Dan Warburton)

Dan Warburton

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