Jordan Reyes & Eli Winter – Controlled Burning
Husky Pants Records – 1 April 2022
Released on Ryley Walker’s Husky Pants label, this mind-bender of an album of duets from guitarist Eli Winter and keyboard and synthesizer artist Jordan Reyes is unashamedly bonkers in places and calm and sedate in others.
What is clear is the musical relationship between the two and their ability to balance these often spacious but always complex and experimental pieces of music. For instance, there is a moment towards the end of epic finale Underground City of Dogs where Jordan’s electronic blasts of sound have hit an almost demented level, and the calming notes (with a wonderful tone) of Eli’s electric guitar can be heard beneath, reassuring the listener that there is indeed control here and purpose from both musicians.
At the beginning is Rosehill-II, which leads with prickly electric guitar picks and an eerie electronic drone, before Eli begins to scratch out an ominous two-chord rhythm. The pacing is deliberate, and Jordan’s flourishes begin to add plenty of light to the shade by the halfway point until his synth static fully washes over the slow gait of the guitar in the final minute.
Screwdrivers in the Garden shares a similar mood, with the guitar’s bottom strings playing a subtly persistent bass line, over which Eli scatters fragments and Jordan plays with metallic electronic shards that switch from fore to background throughout. There is more of an experimental and unfinished feel about this piece too, which is appealing and suits the itchy and abstract approach from both players.
By the Skin of your Teeth feels more composed, with a synthesised bass line lurking beneath an electronically manipulated guitar part. The soothing nature of Jordan’s keys and blankets of sound juxtaposes Eli’s playing here, which is anxious and sharply pitched, giving the song a strange but balanced feel.
The main act of the record is twenty-two minute track Underground City of Dogs, taking up the whole of side B. At the start, a burred electronic drone persists alongside sparse, calmly picked guitar notes. This means the balance of By the Skin of your Teeth is flipped on its head in the first half, with Jordan’s synthesised notes containing the trepidation of the music. It’s fascinating stuff, with an odd tapping sound like rain in a subway and keyboard notes sounding like a robot in peril. Just about audible at times is Eli’s mellow and meandering playing, which, at around twelve minutes, threatens to get heavy and begin to really wail, before regaining composure and retreating. This is needed for the final third, which sees him strum a sturdy line while Jordan plays out a bonkers sonic laser battle. To still have trust in these two during these particularly dynamic periods is part of what makes this album so impressive. The music pushes the boundaries in places and displays a joyous and raucous amount of freedom of expression, which can be quite thrilling.
Controlled Burning by Jordan Reyes & Eli Winter