The start of the album made me think of what my grandmother would have said: "What is this twaddle?" and "Is this what you call music?" White is foremost a drummer, first founding Dirty Three with Warren Ellis and Mick Turner, and with bands as varied as Cat Power, PJ Harvey, and The Blackeyed Susans. Conversely, Marisa Anderson is a classically trained master of melancholic guitar rooted in American folk, neo-classical and African guitar styles, with an early foundation in country, jazz and even circus bands. With musicians as these at the helm, this becomes perfect jam music; not jam as in "jam band" or Grateful Dead, but a rich psychedelic tapestry woven by practiced hands that take pleasure in breaking the rules of jazz foundations and serve to transport the listener to new heights.
There‚Äôs a lot going on with each musician bringing much to the table. It kicks off sounding like noise, chaotic and disjointed to the untrained ear, and it is, but there‚Äôs a pining melody on this first track that holds it together if you listen. Push through, because once past the first track, it leads to a complex, but rich and transcendental experience. I come from a familiarity with Jim White as part of Xylouris White with Cretan lute player Giorgos Xylouris, a duo who blend Greek folk into Avantgarde rock with an abandon of free jazz. White brings it here as well, incorporating modern and ancient drums to Anderson‚Äôs melancholic guitar.
As background music, it may sound like each musician has their own agenda, but a careful listen reveals the mastery of each musician being able to hold their own agenda, reining it in, blending with each other, and smoothly taking back the reins to reveal the uniqueness and strength of each musician on their own chosen instrument. "The Other Christmas Song" is a perfect example of this. "The Lucky" showcases the skill of each musician, bringing out the best in both.
As a self-professed fantasy geek, the title immediately suggests the event in The Highlander films in which an immortal warrior beheads his opponent and a surge of energy from the deceased occurs. The victor then experiences "The Quickening," absorbing all the power and knowledge the opponent had obtained in life. The play between the two musicians hints at a powerful collaboration, less a competition, as if the two have sought to teach and learn from each other, working to form a tightly knit bond such as to be one mind. With no words to get in the way, you can make your own imaginary film to this as the music gets in your head and your mind starts to wander, creating stories from the soundtrack that is provided by White and Anderson.