Chris Cutler/Thomas Dimuzio


Maybe it's just a sign of the times, but I find it strange that while Chris Cutler's collaborative efforts with Fred Frith have been highly lauded - and rightly so - his fruitful partnership with sound wizard Thomas Dimuzio has received so scant an attention from (most of) the press. 'Cause if it's musical results - and not "celebrity" - we're talking about, the Cutler/Dimuzio duo has produced what in my opinion can only be called an unqualified success.

I was already aware of Thomas Dimuzio - both in his solo mode and on some collaborations - but I have to say that it was only when I listened to his recorded output with Chris Cutler that the depth of his musicality became apparent to me. And what's to say about the drummer, save that he succeeded in totally reinventing himself (you've heard of his Solo CD, right?) while at the same time remaining faithful to his previous musical journey?

I'd pay serious money to catch this duo live. Their previous recorded collaboration, Quake ('99) was what a lot of records are nowadays reported to be - but ultimately aren't. A live recording from a '99 US tour, Quake saw the musicians travelling (mostly) turbulent, agitated climates, showing a degree of mutual understanding that's simply uncommon: deep and subtle, with an awareness of the shaping of the form "in the moment" that made one virtually forget that it's improvised stuff we're talking about. Granted, the pieces had been edited - but the quality of their mutual listening (and their listening to the whole) was of the highest order, with no tentativeness nor "dead air".

Dust is the duo's new CD. It's divided into two long tracks, the fruit of pretty different working methods, both almost equally successful. The first track, Requiem, is an absolute gem. The sympathetic understanding of Quake is maybe surpassed, with aesthetical results that are simply stunning: wisely paced, with a very strong teleological sense of form, economy of means, very appropriate (and definitely mature) musical restraint, it communicates a solemnity that's simply breathtaking. And it seems quite shorter than its real duration: 22' 30".

In a way, any track coming after Requiem would be a let-down. Wisely, the duo has opted for a different strategy. According to the liner notes, the recording of the second piece - Universal Decoding Machine - went like this: Chris Cutler's drums (acoustic and electric) were recorded by somebody wearing a binaural microphone (you remember those, right?) while moving around; meanwhile, live processing were being applied. (Quite a trip!) The results were later treated and overdubbed by Dimuzio in his USA studio. Though the piece is quite successful I have to say that, for me, it lacks that special kind of communication that's so apparent in the live pieces by the duo.

"One of the best records of the year" is a sentence that always makes me raise my eyebrows, so let's just say "highly recommended", ok? As was already the case with Quake, Dust makes one more hopeful that the pre-programmed, canned stuff and the "let a sound be a sound" approaches are not the only alternatives we are left with.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003 | Feb. 4, 2003