Duane Pitre & Cory Allen – The Seeker and The Healer (Students of Decay, 2014)

cory

It’s not often that I sit down, write a review, and then subsequently delete every line of it. Pitre’s work leaves me stymied more often than not; of course The Seeker and The Healer is not wholly Pitre’s doing, Cory Allen has had quite a substantial hand in its construction as well, but enough of his influence can be felt here than I’m left speechless as to how to tackle the musical and emotional content of this release. Pitre’s 2012 release Feel Free  is perhaps one of my favourite records of recent years; a beautiful exercise in restrained and precise Minimalism, its unbroken 50 minute flow is technically astonishing and emotionally subtle, and I’ve never found a way to adequately describe how it makes me feel. This blasted record is seemingly a repeat of that.

It’s actually very reminiscent of Feel Free‘s flow in some ways; opener “The Seeker” is absolutely the bigger and more empowered of the two pieces, evoking more complex atmospheres through unfolding textural development than its sibling. It does open gingerly though; measured and slow piano keystrokes develop the mournful attitude much of this piece seems content to wallow in, quickly seeding the hollow darkness and allowing the bigger lines of the harmonium and a 49 stringed drone harp of Allen’s own design to come to the fore in a big way. It’s rarely a smooth ride, the harmonium seemingly fraying at the fringes of fidelity at times, and the drone harp rising up in a sad and heavy crescendo through the bleakest and most morose sequence of the track, both supplemented by jangly guitar lines clearly of Pitre’s creating. Whilst the drones arrive in deep-rooted pulses, the guitar is more brash and surficial, rattling and echoing its harshness and semi-chaotic arpeggios off the walls of an already damaged and confused piece.

“The Healer” is the logical salve to this rather oppressive and distressing first half then, and the slow droning minimalistic conclusion we also found within Feel Free. Opening on sequences of Pitre’s gorgeous bowed guitar it barely grows from the outset in a textural sense, only allowing its calm and placid friend the harmonium and later the piano into its arms, anything but the calamitous and harsh realities of the former. I find myself just as content to sit in its luxurious and expansive drone vistas as it seems to be; sitting here in the Sun and letting the laughter and gleeful shouts of distant children playing waft through the lightweight drone lines, it’s hard not to smile or feel quietly happy, even if there is no apparent source. It just exudes a carefree warmth that’s easy to get caught up in.

I love the juxtaposition of these two pieces; whilst I’m not entirely happy about “The Seeker” it’s role in the album is obvious and I appreciate the fact that it seems to make “The Healer” an altogether more enriching experience. It’s astonishing to me how evocative the sparse and slow drones of that piece can be, but also how polarising the disjointed and distressed instrumentation of its sibling can be as well. I genuinely can’t do anything other than praise its elegant and touching constructions and hope that others find the same emotional power in this beautiful release that I do.

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