AMN Reviews: Dave Tucker, Pat Thomas, Thurston Moore, and Mark Sanders – Educated Guess Vol. 1 (2021; 577 Records)

Recorded Live at London’s Cafe Oto on March 4, 2020, right before lockdown began, this grouping of three UK-based improvisers and American Moore was one of those experiments that turned out better in practice even though it must have looked good on paper. Educated Guess Vol. 1 is two long tracks, 17 and 20 minutes respectively. On it, guitarists Tucker and Moore layer abstract chording, prickly runs, and note-bending over Sander’s rhythmless drumming. Thomas contributes his usual percussive piano, but often takes more of a background role by adding weird electronics and spacy keyboard lines.

This quartet eschews going all out, and instead creates unsettling and quiet atmospherics in between more up-front and assertive passages. But as is the case with much free improv, there is little repetition or development in terms of predictable melody. Instead, this invigorating exploration is a master class in building textures in an impromptu fashion. Use of extended techniques and dissonance contributes unsettling and almost guttural elements to the mix, resulting in this recording standing out even in a genre that prides itself on unconventionality.

This is a “Volume 1”. The implication is that we will eventually hear a “Volume 2” from Tucker, Thomas, Moore, and Sanders. As life slowly returns to normalcy a year after their initial recording, we hopefully will have that opportunity on the horizon.