Bill Nace/Emily Robb - Split LP


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Label: Open Mouth

"Before hitting the road together in 2022, Bill Nace and Emily Robb recorded a tour split – a cassette, limited run of 50 – only to be found at their merch table. Now on vinyl, the split captures a moment bursting with verdant, crisp anticipation. Both artists were then on the heels of significant artistic leaps. Robb was wrapping up the promotional cycle of her first full-length solo record, 2021's How To Moonwalk, and Nace had recently shifted his focus from prepared guitar to the taishogoto, a Japanese instrument rarely heard in the west. When Nace plays his taisho live, listeners generally respond in a couple of different ways. Some become slightly hypnotized by the constant motion required to maintain the instrument's frantic, electric flicker. Others, on the edge of their seats, whoop loudly, almost involuntarily, to release the mounting tension. As a performer, Nace says the experience is a bit like being watched while jogging in place. Where the guitar easily allows space, this particular model of taishogoto has no sustain. 'I have to keep playing it to keep making sound,' Nace says. 'I have to get whipped up into this state.' This presents new limitations, and Nace expands to the edges. Here it shudders and sparks, spiking and scribbling like an EKG. It emanates white light, white heat. Robb luminates in a balmier way, like sunshine through leaves. Her guitar arcs and billows. Fripp-y tones and textures establish a structure inside which it feels good to get lost. Robb describes her improvisational playing here as somewhat meditative. 'There's a constant running through it,' she says. It's like 'hearing a story of a person's mind and emotions as they let music flow through.' Nace notes that coincidentally, the two sides – both recorded by Robb at her Suddenly Studio in Philadelphia – mirror one another in structure: 'There's a stripped-down element that both things have. It's almost more about cutting things away than adding.' Having frequently worked together in the studio over the last few years, Robb says they've each developed an understanding of the other's processes. 'We often discuss quite a lot but conversely, sometimes we don't have to say anything.'" – Margaret Welsh, Queens, NY 2023