C Joynes / Nick Jonah Davis: Split Electric
A couple of things immediately distinguish Split Electric, an album of solo recordings by Cambridge resident C Joynes and Nottingham-based Nick Jonah Davis. There's, first of all, the fact that the two, both well-established as acoustic guitarists, chose to execute the material as solo electric guitar pieces. Secondly, in contrast to the prototypical split format that sees the sum-total of one artist's contributions followed by the other's, Split Electric largely alternates between the two throughout the twelve-song release, making for an album that feels more integrated than the standard split.
The two bring ample experience to the project: the music performed by Joynes, who uses a thumb-led finger-picking technique, encompasses traditional country-blues, English folk, and African and classical Indian music forms, whereas Davis's music is similarly rooted in British folk yet also draws upon the American primitive and Indian classical music genres. There's a palpably raw and spontaneous quality to the recording, much of it sounding like it was laid down using the most basic of resources (in fact, Split Electric was recorded in a near-derelict dental surgery in East London and a cellar in Nottingham). Such rawness isn't unappealing, however; on the contrary, it adds to the release's appeal by bolstering its natural feel.
Joynes's “The Running Board” inaugurates the recording with rapid-fire, country-styled picking that the electric instrument renders into a fuzz-toned blur, after which Davis's “Poa Kichizi” brings a twinge of Eastern flavour to the project in the track's hypnotic modal-inflected flow. Elsewhere, Joynes dons dramatic story-teller garb for the bluesy mini-saga “Bold William Taylor”; as if in response, Davis whips out a slide to help recount his own blues-drenched tale “William Sathya.”
While smoldering blues, folk ballads, and uptempo finger-picking workouts are in plentiful supply, a few tracks take the road less travelled. Suggestive of notes rising from some recent burial site, Davis's mournful rumination “Sigil Eyes” is one such case, but the most striking example is arguably “Scaraboo,” in which Davis uses layers of droning textures and E-bow-like figures to effect an entrancing meditation. Ultimately, the appeal of the recording is heightened not only by the way these electrified players complement one another but by the range of styles they explore.