Prolific artists on their own, the duo of Eric Hardiman (guitar/bass/electronics) and Michael Kiefer (drums/keyboards) have still managed to put out their third album in four years as Spiral Wave Nomads. The spacey, psychedelic tinged guitar/bass/drum excursions are of course expected by now, but the inclusion of additional electronic instrumentation makes Magnetic Sky even greater.
With six songs spread across two sides of vinyl, the duo keeps their performances somewhat succinct, given the improvisational approach. Dynamic drumming and long guitar passages tend to be the focus, but there is so much more going on in the layers beneath. Both Kiefer and Hardiman contribute electronics/synths this time around, and the watery sounds that open “Dissolving into Shape” nicely flesh out the restrained drumming and commanding lead guitar. “Under a Magnetic Sky” is also bathed in soft electronics, covering the outstretched guitar, prominent bass, and taut drumming like a warm, fuzzy blanket. “Carrier Signals” features them leaning a bit more into jazz territory, punctuated with pseudo-Eastern melodies, unconventional drumming, and sitar-like drones.
The other side of the record leads off with “Pharoah’s Lament,” an appropriately mournful guitar lead stretching through effects laden 1960s guitar fuzz. Compared to the density of the first half, there is a more straightforward structure here, with the mix overall kept tastefully sparse. The remaining two performances see the duo going in the opposite direction, turning up the abstraction and dissonance. The chaotic opening to “Rogue Wave” makes the title seem especially appropriate, as twanging bent notes and scraped guitar strings fly off in every direction. It is not an especially dense or oppressive vibe, but certainly a nice bit of messiness. Album closer “Lurking Madness” leads off with bleak electronics as guitar and drums slowly fade in. It is comparably more anomalous in structure, but by no means formless, and the heavier use of electronics throughout certainly fit the “lurking” feel conjured by the title.
Three albums in, Spiral Wave Nomads continue to impress and expand: in this case the addition of electronics and synths is notable, although does not drastically change the dynamic and instead set the foundation for which Hardiman and Kiefer improvise. The duo never seemed to have any difficulty finding their voice, and so Magnetic Sky feels in line with the previous albums, but even more varied and complex, proving the two are adept at far more than improvisation alone.