Weingarten - Charlton: Where There Is Light
Spotted Peccary Music

It wouldn't be inaccurate to call what Carl Weingarten and Catherine Marie Charlton are doing on this collaborative venture electroacoustic, but on the other hand, given the connotations the label presently holds, it could be a tad misleading. In their case, electroacoustic stands for a marriage that's more literally realized between acoustic and electric sounds as opposed to something where extreme electronic experimentalism is involved; further to that, the kind of material performed by the duo isn't radically experimental but rather heavily atmospheric ambient music executed in real time.

On Where There Is Light, the duo's premiere release, Charlton's Steinway piano merges with Weingarten's electric guitar for eight late-night explorations. With two musicians conversing as deeply as they do here, the results can't help but feel intimate, even if two tracks also include renowned fretless bassist Michael Manring. The sonic palette expands considerably courtesy of Weingarten, who's credited with acoustic and electric slide guitars, dobro, loops, delays, and effects on the release. Still, as integral to the forty-three-minute recording as those treatments no doubt are, Where There Is Light primarily registers for its interactions between Charlton's piano and Weingarten's guitar. In those places where treatments are applied, they're often woven so subtly into the presentation they verge on subliminal. That's not always the case, however, as the guitarist's extensive use of effects on “5am” largely transforms the instrument into a texture-generating mechanism. Regardless of the differences in instrumental design, the settings share an elegiac quality befitting the kinds of reflections one tends to have at the center of a long, sleepless night.

During the aptly titled “Attunement,” Charlton's refined playing effortlessly bridges classical, ambient, and New Age realms, while at the same time serving as a sympathetic partner to Weingarten's sombre extemporizations, the tone of his playing and the sharpness of the attack vaguely suggestive of a young Mike Oldfield, the one who played on David Bedford's Star's End, for example; one would be forgiven for thinking of Michael Brook, too, when Weingarten contributes such texturally rich treatments to “Space Race.” The addition of Manring's fretless bass to “Where There is Light” adds dramatically to the presentation, so much so that, as satisfying as the duo performances are, the inclusion of the bassist on more than two tracks wouldn't have been unwelcome. There's much to recommend about the recording, from the intimacy of the musicians' interactions to the fundamental contrast in timbre between their instruments. Adding to that considerably is not only the ruminative, nocturnal tone of the pieces, but the feeling of spontaneity that arises when material is created in real time, as seems to be the case here.

December 2016