James Elkington And Nathan Salsburg

All Gist

Image of James Elkington And Nathan Salsburg - All Gist

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The duo's third album of instrumental guitar recordings pushes their sinuous compositions into labyrinthine new shapes, interlocking and interlocutory, supported by a cast of stellar collaborators. Interwoven among the dazzling original pieces is a fascinating array of covers, ranging from traditional Breton dance tunes to a deconstruction of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance." How it was made - in two segments of three days, one in early Winter, one in late Winter, in Chicago—is a testament to James and Nathan’s enthusiasm for the project. As they’d done on their previous two duo records, each brought fragments of varying lengths to the table (literally James and his family’s kitchen table) and, in varying degrees of frenzy, built songs out of them. Some, like “Numb Limbs,” took several intense hours of tinkering, mostly for Nathan to carve sympathetic designs around the knotty edifice James had constructed—thus its title. Others, like “Death Wishes to Kill” (a phrase lifted from a T.F. Powys novel the two had each recently read and loved) took its feverish shape in forty minutes full of shrieks and groans and hysterical laughs hard-stopped by James rushing out, late, to get his son from school. The acceptable window for coffee consumption was pushed to its reasonable limits, and then beyond them, slamming up against a reasonable hour to start drinking beer. As with Ambsace, the covers on All Gist outline a Venn diagram of Elkington and Salsburg’s abiding interests. On one end is a faithful arrangement of English composer Howard Skempton’s resplendent “Well, Well, Cornelius” (1999); on the other is a composite of two traditional Breton dance tunes (pieced together from Canadian, Irish, and Breton sources); and in the middle where else is a transmutation of Neneh Cherry’s monumental “Buffalo Stance” (1988), a song that no one aside from James and Nathan would ever have thought for a moment could or should be made into fodder for two acoustic guitars. But it was, and with delicacy and joy and sincere reverence for the original, which they painstakingly deconstructed. All Gist perhaps demonstrates more than anything the precarious balance struck between what the Elkington-Salsburg duo is exemplified by cramming to compose or remember guitar parts in James’s kitchen and what the duo could be if it was the engine of a small orchestra in a government-funded arts enclave in some Central European country … where they’d be contractually obliged to perform in matching well-tailored suits.


A1. Death Wishes To Kill
A2. Long In The Tooth Again
A3. Numb Limbs
A4. Nicest Distinction
A5. Well, Well, Cornelius
B1. Explanation Point
B2. Fears Of This Nature
B3. Rule Bretagne
B4. All Gist Could Be Yours
B5. Buffalo Stance

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