Duo Milano is a wonderfully relaxed and companionable encounter between Nels Cline and Elliott Sharp, with five short acoustic guitar duets and five longer tracks featuring electric guitar. Listening to it is like eavesdropping on a conversation which flows easily from one favorite touchstone to another, from Derek Bailey to bottleneck blues, from melting rock balladry to aching Middle Eastern melismas. Though it’s freely improvised, the music always feels strongly grounded – often through persistent drones or the long, throbbing sustains created by Sharp’s eBow. On the acoustic tracks, phrases slide back and forth easily between the guitarists without a break – there’s a welcome absence of the jumpy musical ping-pong that ruins a lot of free improv. Snapping string-percussion gives the improvisations a lively, irregular rhythm, though the guitarists at times dally to search out entire worlds of expression in the small bends and twists of a single note. The electric tracks are less intimate in feeling, more mediated and soundscaped: “Bludget”, for instance, is a grainy, distortion-drenched vista where slow melodies stick out like Olympian peaks; on “Acetylene Panorama”, by contrast, even melody gets sucked into a black hole. The best tracks, though, are the avant-blues epic “Mutha Blooter”, and “Fingernests”, where Sharp’s trademark fret-tapping at verges on mutant bluegrass.