by Brendan Nagle Music Obscure Object

Bill Orcutt & Chris Corsano | Made Out of Sound

Credit: Sebastien Bozon

Orcutt and Corsano provide an example of what improvisational albums should sound like, even with the production constraints of a pandemic-driven world.


One of the most significant challenges in group improvisation is finding the right balance between the individual and the collective. A “free” musician typically strives to develop sounds that are new and unique, but when playing with others, they also have to consider how their playing interacts with that of their collaborators, exploring for themselves, while also leaving space for others to do the same. Rarely is that balance better struck than in the collaborative work of guitarist Bill Orcutt and drummer Chris Corsano: They are two of the most immediately recognizable players of their respective instruments, and as a pair they achieve a natural synchronicity that doesn’t merely preserve their distinct identities, but consistently pushes their playing to greater heights.

Previous releases have been heavy on abrasion and ferocity, but Made Out Of Sound finds the duo in surprisingly breezy territory, perhaps building on the relative softness of Orcutt’s 2019 solo record Odds Against Tomorrow. This airiness may also be a product of their unusual, quarantine-driven recording approach, with Corsano laying down solo drum tracks and Orcutt double-tracking guitar parts remotely while watching the dynamics of the waveform. (In a recent interview they acknowledged that not being in the same room, and thus not being able to feed so directly off of each other’s energy, might have led to the more relaxed sound.) But whatever the reason it’s simply a gorgeous piece of music, one that really emphasizes a lustrous beauty that before only lurked in the margins. Opener “Some Tennessee Jar” is particularly radiant; Orcutt is not a musician I tend to associate with sunshine, but his shimmering, interlocking chords and Corsano’s spacious drumming are actually a perfect match with the understated warmth that comes with the dawning spring. It’s a sunrise in song form. Which is not to say that the two shy away from dissonance entirely: “How To Cook A Wolf” provides a real jolt with its sharp entrance, and is probably the closest they get to the chaos of 2018’s Brace Up!, while “Distance Of Sleep” is a real brow-furrower, all tension, with Orcutt displaying his blues sensibilities. Closer “A Port In Air” cycles back to the rising sun of “Some Tennessee Jar,” and in so doing suggests yet another dawn, another day. The eternity contained within a single day seems an appropriate metaphor for the brief but dense Made Out Of Sound, a record that isn’t likely to wear out any time soon.


Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2021 | Part 1.

You Might Also Like

In Review | Online film and music criticism