Matt Borghi & Michael Teager: Shades of Bending Light
Guitarist Matt Borghi and saxophonist Michael Teager recorded their latest collaborative effort, Shades of Bending Light, live in the studio sans overdubs on May 12, 2014. But the evidence at hand suggests that the seven settings featured on the album weren't completely improvised but instead pieces whose directions were mapped out in some preliminary manner before the tapes rolled. The fact that each of the pieces explores a specific stylistic area relatively distinct from the others also suggests as much.
To their credit, the duo draw the listener into their music using understated means. Teager never resorts to Brötzmann-styled blowing to get the listener's attention, and Borghi likewise adopts a painterly style that's restrained rather than overpowering. In a typical track, Borghi, armed with guitar and synthguitar, generates delicate washes of sound against which Teager's breathy soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones languorously purr. The result might be described as ambient-styled soundscaping whose lustrous sheen at times exudes a New Age-like placidity without turning soporific in the process. Teager offsets the soothing textures produced by the guitar with at times piercing runs that lend the material a slightly aggressive edge; buoyed by lulling rhythms, the eleven-minute title track, for example, affords the saxophonist ample opportunity to soloistically stretch out.
The bluesy dreamscape “Joyce's Fanfare” establishes the album's explorative tone in juxtaposing Teager's alternately fluttering and searing ruminations with Borghi's blues-soaked responses. Affectingly melancholy in spirit, “Watch Over” is similarly highlighted by an extended dialogue between the saxophone and guitar. While Borghi sometimes play a supporting role in generating a backdrop for Teager's soloing, there are moments, such as during “Daisy Chain,” where the tables turn, the guitarist adopting a more prominent role and the saxophone hovering in the background as a ghostly presence.
Tangerine Dream's Phaedra, Vangellis's Blade Runner soundtrack, Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow, and Tortoise are cited as influences, and, while that might be the case, Shades of Bending Light doesn't sound overtly derivative of or indebted to any one of them. Instead, the album maps out its own fifty-seven-minute space in such a way that the focus ends up landing squarely on Borghi and Teager as opposed to any other artist.