Review : Gunn-Truscinski Duo “Sand City” LP (Three Lobed Recordings, 2010)

by David Leicht Today, Three Lobed Recordings releases Steve Gunn and John Truscinski’s fine debut album, Sand City.  The LP features four instrumentals, recorded live at Black Dirt Studio in New York City’s northern exurbs.  Percussionist Truscinski is known for his work with the Ecstatic Peace!-affiliated “drone/scrape” trio, X.O.4, and guitarist Gunn for his contributions to the acid folk group, GHQ, as well as his solo work.  While Gunn’s recent albums have delivered heavy doses of acoustic blues, on Sand City he works in the open-tuned modal style of improvising that’s become prevalent in today’s folk guitar underground.  Examples of this style of playing are scattered through Steve’s previous work, including the vibrato-heavy electric guitar solo, “Jadin’s Dream”, from Boerum Palace (2009). Sequencing an album for vinyl has become a lost art, so it’s refreshing to discover Sand City was consciously organized into “acoustic” and “electric” sides.  The former commences with “Taksim II”, on which the duo elegantly channels one of its obvious touchstones: folk guitarist Sandy Bull’s work with free jazz drummer Billy Higgins.  In similar fashion to pieces like “Blend”, from Bull’s iconic Vanguard Records LP, Fantasias for Guitar & Banjo (1963), Gunn establishes a modal figure to serve as the refrain for “Taksim”, and improvises with variations on the figure throughout the piece.  The second track, the nicely contrasting and curiously titled “B38 Blues”, features Truscinski’s beautiful bowed cymbal work set against Gunn’s energetic arpeggios. The “electric” side of Sand City opens with its longest track, “Wythe Raag”.  This is a reworking of “Wythe Duet”, from Gunn’s Too Early For The Hammer LP (2009), a recording which featured Truscinski.  To me, the piece echoes the work of guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White in Dirty Three, with its alternating passages of calm and frenzy.  The album’s finale, “Outro”, briefly reprises the refrain of “Taksim II” before disintegrating into a metallic haze.  The outstanding feature of this track may be recording itself.  There is a wonderful sense of space around Truscinski’s kit, as well as a clever bit of tone manipulation near the midpoint that gives the listener the illusion of having departed to a room adjacent to the performance:

On the whole, Sand City conjures mysterious and otherworldly moods that make for great listening.  It’s easy to imagine a casual fan of psychedelic music enjoying it as much as one interested specifically in folk guitar music.  Gunn’s improvising is safe but effective, and Truscinski’s sympathetic but dynamic style of drumming cannot be underestimated. Buy the LP/CD from Three Lobed Recordings Visit Steve Gunn on Myspace


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