AMN Reviews: Jeremiah Cymerman / Charlie Looker – A Horizon Made Of Canvas (2021; Astral Spirits)

There is dark and then there is dark. This series of duets from Jeremiah Cymerman and Charlie Looker fall into the latter, more extreme definition. Cymerman, who has a number of releases out on Tzadik and his own 5049 Records label, plays clarinets and pedals. Looker, a former member of Zs who’s interests span metal, jazz, classical, and Renaissance music, switches between piano and guitars.

Each of the five tracks on A Horizon Made Of Canvas has slightly different instrumentation, which prevents the album from becoming too familiar over its 45 minutes. For instance, Cymerman plays both clarinet and bass pedals to Looker’s piano on The Ecstasy of Betrayal, while Cymerman sticks with clarinet and Looker with acoustic guitar on Speaking of Dust.

While largely improvised, these tracks share a common theme. They are deliberately-paced, thoughtful, and atmospheric. Often sparse in their approach, Cymerman and Looker carve out textures with quiet, brooding lines. Both toy with extended techniques to elicit unconventional sounds from their instruments. There is a modest amount of overdubbing, mostly adding a layer or brief background drone. Perhaps the most overt piece is the shortest, I’ll Show You What You Are, which features Looker on slightly-distorted electric guitar and Cymerman taking on an angular and aggressive role. But the majority of the album explores bleak and melancholy emotions, and does so in a beautiful fashion.

A Horizon Made Of Canvas will be out on February 5 on Astral Spirits. Think of it as doom metal played with alternative instrumentation. Well done.