The duo of Slovenian guitarist Samo Šalamon (aka Dr. Jazz) and Israeli, London-based drummer Asaf Sirkis, who recently replaced John Marshall as the drummer of Soft Machine, was recorded in an unorthodox manner. Šalamon wanted for some time to do something with Sirkis, but also wanted to challenge his compositional strategies, so both Šalamon and Sirkis decided to reverse the recording process. Sirkis recorded about thirty minutes of drum improvisations, and Šalamon added melodies, solo parts and chord changes. Šalamon orchestrated Sirkis’ basic rhythmic patterns and composed eight pieces with layers of electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, bass, synths and piano. These pieces are leisured, optimist and engaging journeys in swinging jazz, fusion country and folk territories, sometimes even spiced with some strange noises.
Sirkis plays a more decisive role in the Berlin-based, free improvising quartet Anchor and Burden with German guitarist Markus Reuter, known from the King Crimson-tinged Stick Men trio and his ambient works, and Alexander Paul Dowerk, who collaborated before with Reuter in the Centrozoon duo, and keyboards and electronics player Bernhard Wöstheinrich, a former student of Reuter. Sirkis replaced original drummer Shawn Crowder and he collaborated a few times before with Reuter, including in the band of British guitarist Mark Wingfield. Kosmonautik Pilgrimage is the sixth album of this band after five self-released, Bandcamp-only albums, recorded live in the studio in 2021 and the first half of 2022 and the first one with its new incarnation with Sirkis.
Reuter and Paul Dowerk play on eight-string, multichannel Touch guitars, designed by Reuter, that allow the guitarists to play solo, rhythm and bass parts simultaneously and orchestrate the instant compositions of the quartet with effects when each string of the Touch guitars is recorded separately. And, indeed, Reuter and Paul Dowerk sound like several people playing. The intense and complex, free improvised music borrows elements from prog-rock, post-metal, ambient and doom-jazz but transcends all genre conventions, and highlights the tight and powerful, collective dynamics. The nine pieces of Kosmonautik Pilgrimage shift seamlessly from muscular and quite cerebral guitar duels to atmospheric, sci-fi journeys and psychedelic meltdowns. Sirkis disciplines these dense, uncompromising collective improvisations with precise, dramatic drumming that makes sense of Anchor and Burden’s layered, architectural behemoths. And if you need a musical reference, Anchor and Burden sound like the late version of King Crimson on highly potent, extraterrestrial steroids.
Samo Šalamo (el.g, bjo, 6 and 12-string g, bg, Moog, synths, p), Asaf Sirkis (dr, perc), Markus Reuter (Touch Guitars AU8 and S8, soundscapes), Alexander Paul Dowerk (Touch guitars S8), Bernhard Wöstheinrich (keys, elec)