Compilations / Mixes
James Blackshaw & Lubomyr Melnyk:
The combination of James Blackshaw and Lubomyr Melnyk is a pairing so natural it seems inevitable, especially when Melnyk's so-called ‘continuous music' style could be just as easily applied to Blackshaw's guitar playing (the pianist even proclaimed, after seeing Blackshaw play live, “You have invented continuous music for guitar!”). When the two first met in 2008, they hatched the idea of a future collaboration, which ultimately came to fruition in 2012 when they convened at the Vortex Jazz Cafe in London for a day of improvisations (spontaneous composition, if you prefer). With Blackshaw playing twelve-string acoustic guitar and Melnyk at the grand piano, no more than two takes per song were done and the entire session was over in six hours, with The Watchers' four long-form settings the wondrous result.
The album embarks in “Tascheter” on a sea of cascading ripples, the musicians pushing forward side-by-side, neither one dominant and Blackshaw's ringing patterns a fitting complement to Melnyk's elegant clusters. Throughout the thirty-six-minute recording, the two act as conduits for the music's seemingly unforced unfolding as it moves patiently through chord progressions and hints at melodic possibilities, subtly rising and falling as it does so. Neither musician solos in the conventional sense of the word, although one might just as easily say that both solo constantly; having said that, Blackshaw's crystal-clear tone does assert itself prominently during the latter half of “Venant” to a point where his repeating melody does stand out from the sonic mass.Though each player is a master at generating swirling eddies of sound, the most affecting sections, interestingly enough, are those where the density diminishes and the music quietens. That happens most evidently during the album's second half, specifically during “Satevis,” where the slow tempo allows Melnyk's waterfalls to create an impressionistic mass against which the guitarist replies with chiming figures, but most memorably during the closing minute where the instruments' voices gradually scale back until they vanish altogether. The stately closer “Haftorang” is, if anything, even more elegant in the melancholy lines the musicians draw. It's during these moments when the beauty of the music comes most powerfully to the fore, and one leaves the album thinking that a better title might have been The Listeners, given the telepathic level shared by the musicians.