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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Michael Beharie/Teddy Rankin-Parker - A Heart From Your Shadow Music Album Reviews

Mixed by Jim O’Rourke, the duo’s debut is a progression of left turns and interruptions—drone blasts, electronic spasms, lyrical cello—whose unpredictability mimics the rhythms of city life.

The names of multi-instrumentalist Michael Beharie and cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker probably won’t ring bells for many people, but their list of accomplishments is long: Their genre-spanning CVs would make for a pretty unusual playlist, with credits ranging from Primus to Iron & Wine, Au Revoir Simone to Laurel Halo, Pauline Oliveros to Father John Misty. The two met a decade ago, when both were students at Oberlin, before Beharie headed to New York and Rankin-Parker lit out for Chicago. After carving out a presence on their respective scenes, they finally came together for their first record as a duo, A Heart From Your Shadow, spending time at Beharie’s living-room studio in Bed-Stuy and at a proper studio in Greenpoint; Jim O’Rourke handled mixing duties. Across 10 fractured pieces, Beharie and Rankin-Parker flit through a number of modes: gorgeous strings, drone blasts, polyrhythmic din, spoken-word études, electronic spasms, and more, never feeling the need to settle on any one for long. Like being elbowed on a crowded subway by a good-looking stranger, you come away feeling at once jostled and besotted by the results.

The album’s concise opener, “Intro,” presents both extremes of the duo’s approach. Elongated cello tones and celestial voices that emerge like a mirage from the vibrating strings make for an enchanting two minutes. But at precisely 2:01, the vibrato turns malicious and dark and the angelic voices suddenly become shrieking sirens—a bewildering trick if you’re walking on the sidewalk with earbuds in. The maneuver encapsulates the urban experience as soundtracked by your own personal playlist, with real life breaking noisily in every few feet. On “Smooth Face,” the wailing sirens return, but this time, Rankin-Parker’s cello moves in tandem with them: an echo rather than a rupture.

“Paper Tiger” finds the duo evoking the shape-shifting surprises of Oneohtrix Point Never, solemn and sparse for a span, glitching and overdriven the next, gossamer melodies turning into deep growls. There are moments of deep-space darkness, of traversing junkyard mounds, of breathing in rarefied air; it becomes increasingly hard to discern just which parts have been written and which ones improvised. Depending on where you dip into “Roses,” you might find it a mournful cello solo, impenetrable feedback, keyboard noodling, near-silent scraping, or an alien chorale.

The set’s most fascinating moments come when the duo folds polyrhythmic patterns into spliced sonic textures. Clanging highlight “Gully” draws from Beharie’s Jamaican heritage, its beat reminiscent of the strange yet visceral riddims of Equiknoxx and the metal-on-metal scrape of This Heat. “Fake Money” immerses us in lo-fi beats that sound submerged in a lake. Lose track of the muffled rhythms and you soon find yourself amid plucked and buzzing strings. Heard from beginning to end, the album can cause whiplash, while adding tracks to a playlist can scramble the mood in the best way. It’s one of Beharie and Rankin-Parker’s neat tricks: expertly sliding sounds all around you, continually leaving you bewildered and in unfamiliar new spaces.

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