One of the best things about the age in which we now live is the keen synthesis of various artistic forms. The proliferation of mixed-media work, music video, performance art and formalist theater in this decade is a testament to the willingness of mass culture to embrace a forward momentum in art. Music too has benefited from this collective thirst for ?newness? as demonstrated by the electronic/folk/minimal work of Sufjan Stevens and the glitchy/ambient/avant garde/pop of Dan Deacon. These artists combine styles to create new voices and new musical perspectives while inviting the listener along for the ride. It is a great time indeed to be a fan of modern music.
When listening to ?Rusted Breath Quiet Hands,? the project of Matthew Welch (on saxophone) and Craig Colorusso (on guitar), I am reminded of just far music has come in the last decade. The two long tracks on this disc are spacious yet offer enough subtle melody to impart some meaning. This music is most certainly modern, and the diverse and impressive backgrounds of Craig and Matthew are injected into the tracks as they draw on their collective past experiences and produce music that creates tension without disturbing the delicate, meandering compositional balance. In a sentence, this music is gentle, rolling guitar drones with subdued saxophone improvisations. Although the songs are long and rambling, the duo manages to stay on the message of each track. As they move around telling the story, the sax narration will occasionally digress, or expound but always returning to advance the intended plot.
I experienced track one while driving on a hot summer day without air-conditioning but I had just received some great news so the penetrating heat went unnoticed as my thoughts were guided by the positive vibe of the track. This was a great synaesthetic moment. The major chord, which never changes over the course of the song but does evolve and shift texturally, reminds one that ambient music does not need to be dark or entirely anti-social and I am grateful for the cheerful tone of this album. The musicians allow the song to exist and breathe on its own by restraining their contributions to the germane. As the drone swells, the sax will lay back. Then as the crescendo subsides, the sax will offer a flourish that serves as the auditory bookend. The guitar drones are sometimes harmonic variations, bass-heavy fluctuations, or midrange, monotonal movements. This diverse demonstration of drones displays just how much one can do with only one note. Track one is a less intense Azusa Plane track with sax noodling.
The second track features a soft guitar strum that repeats over the duration, creating a mysterious set from which the sax directs a surrealist play. Where the first track is a sunny, Sunday afternoon, the second track is a more contemplative, evening stroll along a city street. This brings us to the one drawback in the work on ?Rusted Breath Quiet Hands? and of some long-form ambient in general. The ideas contained in each track could be expressed in half as much time, leaving room on the CD for a few more tracks. As it is, I am left wanting a bit more, which to an artist is not necessarily a bad thing but to the listener can be unnerving.
While music is progressing in unpredictably amazing ways and what is acceptable by the mainstream is expanding beyond what anyone could have predicted, artists are finding voices by forging their own paths and creating their own spaces in which to exist. Matthew and Craig are certainly working hard to deliver ambient music that would fit right in at an art galley opening or in the classroom as research material for minimalist composers. 6/10 -- Curt Seiss (22 August, 2007)