ALBUM REVIEW: Ezra Feinberg and John Kolodij – ‘Ezra Feinberg and John Kolodij’: four deep acoustic atmospheres

YOU MAY know the names involved in this self-titled collaborative LP, brought to you by the twin instrumental and exploratory talents of Ezra Feinberg and John Kolodij; you may not.

But if you have any interest in the more textured zone where post-rock has bumped into its good friend, post-classical, even out-folk; the world of Talk Talk, of Rachel’s, others, then let’s just be saying this album might be one to build a nest in your head. It’s a very pretty thing that does much across the quartet of tracks it contains.

Quick introductions then, for the uninitiated: Ezra Feinberg is a guitarist, composer, and psychoanalyst living in Jackson Heights, New York. He was a founding member and shining light in San Fran band Citay, who embraced a seeking approach to a heavily scented brand of psych-rock for labels such as Dead Oceans across a quartet of albums in the 2000s. Since flying solo, Ezra has released the brilliant and woozy instrumental psych-folk set Pentimento and Others in 2018 – imagine William Tyler shifting into a more exotic, smoky, space; the more ambient Recumbent Speech last year, and has played both with and alongside people such as Steve Gunn and Real Estate.

His partner in this album, John Kolodij, has stepped out from the High Aura’d nom-de-musique under which he’s released a dozen albums, often in collaboration, for respected imprints such as TYPE and his current home, Cincinnati’s excellent Whited Sepulchre; last year that label put out a silver vinyl pressing of his twin work with Josh Mason, Lower Yr Voice

And it’s Whited Sepulchre which is curating this latest release: both a split LP, with each of them taking a side apiece; and a collaboration, with each understudying the melodic and textural voicings of the other’s composition.

It’s Ezra who’s won the toss and who leads out the opening side with “Figure Ground”. This is a blissful and meditative mantra, in which a bed of sustained, sitar-like drone holds things tight for woodwind to roam and push the envelope. In the opening bars there’s a few moments that remind me melodically of “Lazy Calm”, the opening track from Cocteau Twins’ Victorialand; at others, Paul Horn’s abstract free atmospheres for the flute, Inside.

It has a very Eastern sensibility and is saved from the cliche of being ‘new age’ by the nuance and application of the woodwind playing. There’s moments where the notes ring so hard and clear, it’s like molten metal overtopping a mould and glowing. Only in the dying seconds does a synth wash appear to ease things home.

His second track, “Castle Sand”, takes for its palette the piano and the guitar. The piano playing is liquid, rippling. If there’s a castle sand as suggested by the title, then it borders deep water. Think Harold Budd in terms less of style and more of emotional response. The guitar elements bank up with a back line of harmonic, dronesome violining; above another guitar unleashes single- and double-note licks with fervour and a raw desert tonality, etching contours of sound.

John’s side opens with “Beyond The Fragile”, and we’re into eerier territory, with two whistling pulses, one at the pitch of some otherworldly bird; one, the wind through wires. Other complex surges of tone, of ringing percussion, of distant guitar eventually crash and recede on the rocks of a gentle two-chord acoustic pattern, announcing itself and allowing a slow riff to meander. You’re kinda glad the sonic tension has broken, until somewhere around the four-minute mark when deep thunderheads of minor-key drone block the sun and grey out the horizon. Twin winds blow and scatter sonic patination before them: one of acoustic grain, smothering a distant guitar; another, a higher electronic pulse. A muted and brittle duet of organ and guitar is left as a coda after it’s swept through.

“Geometry Of Space” rises from the windfall of “Beyond The Fragile” in respiration, knocking, mournful background sound. For the first two minutes at least it conjures up some pretty nightmarish scenarios: underpasses, claustrophobia. A simple two-note bell relieves the tension and a pretty reed instrument finally resolves some sense of calm, even if there may still be dread somewhere behind. Think the deconstructed moments of Spirit Of Eden, muchly. It glides above the abrasion and rolls out a melody that pins back that eeriness, but never defeats it; it bursts out into ecstatic circularity like Coltrane or Rahsaan Roland Kirk, before the whole subsides to quietude.

Wow. It’s quite a journey. It doesn’t push further insomuch as it pushes inward; each track a tonal and musical continent or season to itself. It’s what my good friend Sam would call in his personal schemata, at first seemingly absurd but actually precise, a real “listening record.” It’s one to appreciate in the company of one’s headphones or another who loves to lose themselves in sound. A very fine little LP indeed.

Ezra Feinberg and John Kolodij’s self-titled LP will be released by Whited Sepulchre on vinyl on August 28th. To purchase your copy and get listening, click here.

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