A Handful of Dust — For Patti Smith (2002, Freewaysound)
[Apologies, but out of print and no stream.]
A rather droll affair, this. The always magnificent A Handful of Dust, featuring Kiwi luminaries Bruce Russell and Alastair Galbraith, who have in some fashion or other been kicking around in the South Island experimental scenes since the mid-1980s. The duo team up for this live homage to Patti Smith recorded in Australia in 2002. “I am god’s finger” features the monotonous squeaking violin of Galbraith while Russell remains uncharacteristically restrained. At around the 2:30 mark, one tempestuous swell of oscillating feedback protrudes from Russell, but otherwise, the Dead C noisenik-cum-doctor of fine arts keeps the pot on a slow simmer, stirring occasionally. Around the 9-10 minute mark Russell turns up the heat and begins to complement Galbraith’s hypnotic playing with jagged, buzzing coughs of sound, before allowing the guitar to feedback circa Woodstock 1969. With a change of the wind however, Russell is nowhere to be found. Cat and mouse continues, and at minute lucky number thirteen, the feedback howls and Galbraith pedal tones and drones the hell out of the violin. An excellent half-hour of sonic cat and mouse. “(From a soundtrack to) Babelfield” opens with reed-like feedback from Russell; Galbraith enters with his own tensile contribution which sounds like the bow scraping over taught wires at just over the 2:00 minute mark. Between tremolo-laden feedback and scraping wires and strings, the duo knock out a tune which feels twitchy and almost nauseating, but is by no means unlistenable. The closing four minutes of the 17 minute tune features Bruce Russell performing a dulcimer-like hammering/strumming of the strings, which though sparse and nearly incoherent, remain surprisingly melodic and poignant. Simultaneously, Galbraith plucks loose strings (or slack wires), adding bassy depth and oddly humorous texture to Russell’s contribution. In sum, For Patti Smith hits the mark and will certainly enter into the rotation of any fan of Russell or Galbraith (or any of their respective projects).