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In some ways Cater is the perfect partner for Sullender: both use unexpected techniques and approaches to reimagine a simple instrument with deep roots in specific folk traditions. Cater retunes most of his harmonicas, often in just intonation—the system embraced by minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young—and Sullender occasionally refracts his banjo playing with subtle laptop manipulations. Despite these art-music trappings, though, the album is direct and accessible. It's a beautiful piece of work that gains resonance and meaning with repeated listens, and I particularly appreciate the way it challenges assumptions about the instruments by transplanting avant-garde practices into a musical context that seems as old as the hills.
Sullender and Cater perform this Saturday evening at Enemy. They also perform with harmonium player Jaime Fennelly Sunday night on Something Else, the experimental-music program hosted by Philip von Zweck on WLUW.
Seamus Cater & Uncle Woody Sullender, "While Sails Billow":