Duane Pitre and Cory Allen: The Seeker and the Healer
Students of Decay

Students of Decay continues to build on its reputation for releasing high-quality works by forward-thinking composers with this debut full-length collaboration by Texas-based sound artist Cory Allen and Louisiana minimalist composer Duane Pitre. Consisting of two side-long pieces the pair recorded at the Estuary Recording Facility, the album resists straightforward labeling in exemplifying sound properties associated with both classical minimalism and ambient dronescaping; more than anything, it registers as a highly personal product whose sonic form is reflective of its creators. Though the settings unfold in real-time, the groundwork for the project was laid by multiple improvisational sessions governed by predetermined rules.

“The Seeker” begins with minimal piano gestures of pensive character whose statements are dramatically embellished by bowed guitar and harmonium drones. The material unfolds at its own unhurried pace, with each episode evolving in natural manner and segueing into the next. Eventually Allen's custom-made, forty-nine-stringed drone harp appears, its presence announced by percussive accents strewn across the long-form textures generated by the other instruments. During its second half, the piece descends into a somewhat disturbing zone where the muffled wails of some injured creature move to the forefront.

The mood changes for “The Healer,” which opens in mournful mode before the focus shifts to a thick, overtone-laden mass of bowed guitar and harmonium tones that's extended into a lulling, slow-motion shimmer of plaintive character. Piano again appears, even if its minimal punctuations function more as an accompaniment to the ceaselessly droning undercurrent. While a funereal, dirge-like dimension is present, there's also a wistful, even yearning quality to this second piece that lends it a powerful gravitas. In both settings, the organic quality of the material and the way it comes into being suggests that one might be better to think of Allen and Pitre less as creators and more like midwives. If anything, the thirty-seven-minute recording exudes such a naturalness, the instrument sounds feel as if they're speaking through the two rather than being played by them.

August-September 2014