Gordon Grdina, Kenton Loewen, and François Houle build improvised sound worlds on decades of trust | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Gordon Grdina, Kenton Loewen, and François Houle build improvised sound worlds on decades of trust 

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click to enlarge Gordon Grdina

Gordon Grdina

Jason C.K. Wang

The Vancouver duo of guitarist Gordon Grdina and drummer Kenton Loewen have formed a serious bond over two decades of collaboration, shifting the tone of their partnership depending on context or the involvement of additional musicians. But they always sound plugged in to each other,seeming to adapt as easily as one turns a dimmer switch. Earlier this year, the duo released their self-titled album as Peregrine Falls (Drip Audio), which couches their flinty, fiery improvisation in heavy hard-rock grooves. Loewen’s playing shifts between tense shuffles and full-blown pummeling, while Grdina trades off atmospheric patterns that evoke the billowing melancholy of Radiohead and lacerating riffs that split the difference between 70s hard rock and 90s heavy metal. Rather than settle into a pleasing grind, the music shimmers on the brink of chaos, keeping things surprising with spontaneous gestures. Grdina and Loewen sound like entirely different people on Ghost Lights (Songlines), a gorgeous quartet effort with French pianist Benoît Delbecq and Vancouver clarinetist François Houle—a pair of musicians whose own partnership goes back 20 years. Most of the music is freely improvised, but the meditative opener, “Soro,” is a composition by Houle; Grdina and Loewen’s taut, twitchy swing melds with Delbecq’s string-damped lines to give the composer a perfect foundation for a lyrical solo. Elsewhere, the musicians seem like they’re tethered together, tracing each other’s movements to discover lines and phrases that complement and caress one another with chamber music sensitivity, their rich timbres enhanced by subtle electronics. Tonight Houle, Grdina, and Loewen perform as a trio, promising yet another world of sound.   v

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