Alan Licht & Aki Onda “Everydays”


The Wire, UK, 2008
Text by Matthew Wuethrich


Be it in indie rock groups, Improv ensembles or his solo compositions, guitarist, writer and The Wire contributor has spent his career smuggling ideas across the obscured bridge between harmony and noise. Working with a vast cassette diary of field recordings, tape musician and visual artist Aki Onda has spent his investigating the dark divide between experience and memory. As a duo, they rearrange the syntaxes of various musical grammars – loops and drones, noise and improvisation, samples and human dialogue, blues and jazz guitar – over five superbly wrought compositions.


“Chitchat” sets Bailey-style guitar scribble against an oscillating organ drone, while “Tick Tock” aggregates humid feedback hum, ragged keyboard chords and oddly rhythmic vocal excerpts. At first, this approach seems disjointed, but clash and tension is the point, as if the pair were recasting the radical groove/drone juxtaposition of Miles Davis’s “Rated X” in the context of Improv and noise.


Throughout the disc, layered loops become extended rhythmic unites and the hidden harmonies of drones are highlighted, turning static approaches into fluent, openended ones. On “Tiptoe”, repeated guitar riffs and horn samples give way to a flowing jazz-tinged guitar solo and a backdrop of warm, undulating tones. On “Be Bop”, the duo gradually sculpts a stuttering slab of noise into a pulsing matrix of overtones and feedback. But their most significant transformation is the duo format itself. Eschewing the traditional give and take of dialogue, they engage in more oblique communication in which no answers are given, but plenty of intriguing questions get asked.