Gustav Mahler's observation that “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire” used as the epigraph to David Torn's liner note is stimulating. Rather than remnants or mellowness think 'Mars' as in part of Interstellar Space, one of the greatest duo albums in existence, and perhaps in years to come this album with any luck will be seen as a duo classic of the 21st century. Of course there is no direct connection here (the style isn't ''multi-directional'') other than a shared planet plucked from the universe and both albums' avant farsightedness. Something of a shared aesthetic in a conjuring of the freedom principle however undoubtedly applies.
Alto colossus Tim Berne is on particularly contemplative form alongside relative unknown guitar dude Gregg Belisle-Chi who turns out to be a perfect Boswell to Berne's Dr Johnson given that there is almost a diary quality to the sense of sequential discipline and cryptic routine here building a monument of inter-relationship. Ornette Coleman-like rather than Coltranian throughout instinctively turn to 1996's Sound Museum: Three Women to retain a shred of the mood in breaks from listening. And also like honey to the bee begin on a ballad from Bern Nix album Alarms and Excursions for some fruitful if only partial sense of what Belisle-Chi is aiming at.
On Mars the guitarist comps precisely, hugely obliquely, and dutifully on this album of Berne originals recorded back in the spring at a Woodstock studio in New York state. And because of this you can really hear Berne on this record as it is mostly taken at a steady adagio and like a harmony mechanic who has swallowed the manufacturer's manual Belisle-Chi tunes the Berne engine to the point where its hum catches at the right frequency and whirrs at precisely the correct revolution. Berne is serene in his characteristic ache and searing honesty beyond and above the chromaticism. Shredding isn't a thing at all and yet this is far from a mellow cop-out. The heat is an inner fire by the way to return to the Mahler starting point that Torn who mixed and mastered the album brought up. Over these infinite riches in a little room there is no need at all to rain on anyone's parade let alone Berne's bountiful 'Rose Bowl Charade.' Gregg Belisle-Chi, top left, and Tim Berne. Out on 21 January