When they play live, guitarists David Daniell and Douglas McCombs
create their twangy, atmospheric, gently psychedelic duets on the fly, trusting in the intuition they've developed over the years of their collaboration (and on rows of effects pedals). For their gorgeous 2009 debut, Sycamore
, they used the studio as another tool, editing more than eight hours of performance recordings—hypnotic and expansive, sometimes tender, sometimes raw—into four dense, concise pieces. They applied the same approach for this year's Versions
(Thrill Jockey), but instead of doing the editing themselves they enlisted Ken Brown—McCombs's former bandmate in Pullman and in the first version of Tortoise. Brown doesn't deviate from the spirit of Sycamore
, but he pushes the music further toward a liquid, suitelike flow: the four pieces he designed move together in a lush, wide-open rush, cut with acid tones, layers of tremolo, and occasional drum patterns (played in turn by Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess, John Herndon, and Chad Taylor) that contrast dramatically with the guitars; they reach a climax with the clipped, lick-oriented, and percussive "Ley Lines
is a double-album set, and the second LP contains two live performances that haven't been treated to the same sort of postproduction editing—proof that Daniell and McCombs can spin similarly cinematic epics out of thin air. In 2011 Daniell moved from Chicago to Asheville, North Carolina, so the duo rarely performs these days—this is the first time in more than a year. Rosaly joins in on drums. —Peter Margasak Cleared and Matthew Hale Clark open.