When you hear the name Jim White you’ll immediately think of the Australian instrumental rock band Dirty Three. Or, if you’ve been following him around, the long list of other well known artists he collaborated with over the years. White now teams up with guitarist Marisa Anderson. He and Anderson toured together alongside greek singer George Xylouris. During the tour they jumped into a few studios a couple of times to improvise. The result of these sessions is The Quickening was released in mid-spring this year.
Because we know White’s music to be warm we at first approached The Quickening as background music.We however quickly realized that these improvisations deserve a much closer listen. After a few spins we would describe The Quickening as an impressionistic conversation between a world class drummer and a world class guitarist. You need some concentration to actually hear the two ‘talking’ but once you do it’s impossible to unhear again.
After the orchestral sounding warm-up on Gathering moods start shifting. Much of the tracks on the first half of the album start out small with thin but free guitar lines and carefully placed drum brushes. White and Anderson stay together at first but drift apart on Lucky where Anderson’s guitar takes the lead and White dictates the pace from the background. On The Other Christmas Song we hear what sort of unique synergy both musicians are able to create. The track is an open composed melodic cascade on which both instruments almost completely blend into each other.
White and Anderson continue to combine their technical skills on the second half of The Quickening. It’s here we both musicians reach almost complete synergy. The majestic title track is hypnotizing and reminds slightly of the building organics we know from The Necks. While The Necks often find salvation in restlessness White and Anderson reach for heaven. Question is if they ever get there. Anderson’s repetitive nylon string play suggests that they don’t so we guess that this soothing trip up is probably more important than the destination. The same kind organics are also heard on Pallet. White’s carefully placed tambourine taps stand out here and create an atmosphere of hot summer evenings. On the two tracks that follow the album slowly hushes towards an ending. Closer November serves as a farewell song, a quintessential one if we may add. On a warm gesture White and Anderson seem to say goodbye to each other through music. Although the song is rather short, it radiates emotion all the way through. Goodbye’s have never sounded this perfect.
The Quickening is a brijant album made by two seasoned musicians who are in complete command of their instruments and create an unique conversation from there. Works like these seldom float to the surface, but if they do and if you give it some proper attention you’ll be sure to be pulled under into an endless sea of richness.
Label: Thrill Jockey, 2020
- Gathering (3:44)
- Unwritten (2:19)
- The Lucky (4:03)
- The Other Christmas Song (4:35)
- Last Days (5:02)
- Diver (3:56)
- The Quickening (5:14)
- Pallet (3:15)
- 18 to 1 (3:25)
- November (2:50)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 181220