Saturday 6th August

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Tired, weary and irritable tonight! Ah well, another week of work over and another day off tomorrow. This evening I had been listening to probably the wrong kind of music for when I’m in this sort of mood. If my frame of mind calls for something quiet and calming, I picked out a CD of somewhat brusque, energetic improvisation. Bad timing then. Still, the CD is an interesting one, an acoustic guitar duo on the For*Sake label by two Swedish musicians, Christian Munthe and Anders Lindsjo. The disc is named (quite terribly!) the Ping of the Pong and is a set of six improvisations recorded in Sweden during 2010. The title may or may not refer to the quick fire to and ‘fro of the music here, which often does resemble the energetic pace and precision of a table tennis game, but if it does’t, well its a useful analogy all the same.

Its hard to know what to think of this disc. In general I quite like Munthe’s playing in this style, and his CD from a few years back alongside Roger Turner is a real favourite of mine. I think though that I prefer his playing with a little more space and air in it, as is the case on some, but not all of the pieces here, and perhaps the guitar may work better alongside a different instrument. Its possible that this CD is a little too, well, guitary….  For the most part, Munthe and Lindsjo really go for it here. They pick, thrash, hammer and scrape away together at quite a pace, often to the extent that its hard to separate their individual sounds. In places they play just the strings, elsewhere, such as the storming second track here they almost become a percussion duo, hammering and clattering at the body of the instrument. The music works well for me when it suddenly shifts down a gear, as at the start of the closing track, when the energy of what precedes it is followed by a more contemplative, gentle opening. As the piece progresses the energy picks back up and the album closes with another firefight, but the drop in temperature was momentarily very nice.

The Ping of the Pong is an album that I enjoy more in the right setting. Driving home from work tonight with it playing was great, the shapes the musicians throw up, the speed with which they fly past, keep you alert and on the edge of your seat. Its probably great music for a sunny afternoon with the windows thrown open as well, but tonight as all I want to do is fall asleep, and as the rain falls pathetically outside it seems a little out of step with me. Still, as the more energetic, lively end of improvisation goes this is a good one. There are subtleties in there that I don’t always hear in this kind of thing, slight changes in timbre mid-flow and the two guitarists achieving a similar set of sounds through different techniques- strummed strings perhaps ending up sounding similar to a rubbed guitar body when placed beside each other.

One that will split the audience then, enjoyed a lot by those that like a little fire and fun in their improvisation and thrive on the interaction between musicians, perhaps disliked more by those that prefer a little poise and room for contemplation. While my heart is certainly with the latter, I can enjoy the former on the right day as well. Perhaps today wasn’t that day, so I won’t shelve this one just yet and wait instead for the right moment.

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