The Rustic Avant-Garde of Uncle Woody Sullender | Bleader

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rustic Avant-Garde of Uncle Woody Sullender

Posted By on 12.02.10 at 01:37 PM

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Seamus Cater & Uncle Woody Sullender
  • Seamus Cater & Uncle Woody Sullender
On the recent When We Get to Meeting (Dead CEO), a collaboration with Amsterdam-based English harmonica player Seamus Cater, avant-garde banjoist and former Chicagoan Uncle Woody Sullender continues to efface the imagined boundaries between folk and experimental music. On first blush it definitely sounds rustic and rural , but then you come across a piece of back-porch minimalism like "While Sails Billow," which you can hear for yourself below—as Cater blows warped drones, Sullender scrabbles out brittle, tumbling arpeggiations.

In some ways Cater is the perfect partner for Sullender: both use unexpected techniques and approaches to reimagine a simple instrument with deep roots in specific folk traditions. Cater retunes most of his harmonicas, often in just intonation—the system embraced by minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young—and Sullender occasionally refracts his banjo playing with subtle laptop manipulations. Despite these art-music trappings, though, the album is direct and accessible. It's a beautiful piece of work that gains resonance and meaning with repeated listens, and I particularly appreciate the way it challenges assumptions about the instruments by transplanting avant-garde practices into a musical context that seems as old as the hills.

Sullender and Cater perform this Saturday evening at Enemy. They also perform with harmonium player Jaime Fennelly Sunday night on Something Else, the experimental-music program hosted by Philip von Zweck on WLUW.

Seamus Cater & Uncle Woody Sullender, "While Sails Billow":

Today's playlist:

Lee Morgan, The Gigolo (Blue Note)
Noetinger/Doneda/eRikm, Dos D'anes (Ronda)
Marcos Valle, O Compositor e o Cantor (Odeon)
Taku Sugimoto, Opposite (Hat Noir)
OOIOO, Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey)

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