“In the Flesh”
In 2003, guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and drummer Lukas Ligeti released a set of evocative duets under the album title Shadowglow (TUM). The Finnish-American Björkenheim and the Austrian-born Ligeti, the son of celebrated modern composer György Ligeti, both made their mark on the New York improvisational music scene. They were a formidable team, their dark, propulsive music spanning various cultures and genres, their exotic soundscapes incorporating African and Asian rhythms and instrumentation, as well as touching on aspects of jazz fusion. Recorded at Bill Laswell’s studio in New Jersey, the sessions were freely composed on the spot by the participants, who are longtime associates. Chinese tam-tam, 12-string guitar, steel guitar, electric viola da gama and log drums are among the implements in the duo’s arsenal, and they incorporate influences from Korean pansori vocal music to Afro-pop to Coltrane throughout. Somewhat reminiscent of Bill Frisell’s signature take on Americana, “In the Flesh” is a dialog between Björkenheim’s sparse, shimmering strings and the subdued menace of Ligeti’s kick drum, pattering snare and cymbals that grows in intensity before returning to quiet conversation. The piece unfolds like a succinct playlet, full of character and conflict, that tells its tale in brief, deft strokes. Nearly 20 years later, a follow-up would be most welcome.