Ayman Fanous / Jason Kao Hwang
Innova Recordings - innova 869
by Mark S. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange, 2013
What Zilzal represents is not an easy genre of music. Of the many modes I tackle, it's among the most difficult precisely because it tallies such an unusual cross between vivid but highly unorthodox explication and abstract variations. Guitarist Ayman Fanous put it perfectly when, in auditioning violinist Jason Kao Hwang, he soon found the violinist "had an uncanny ability to navigate the incongruent harmonic tapestry I threw at him, a bird in flight careening and somersaulting to a hidden instinct". Their debut showcase thus produced "strange and beautiful music". Both adjectives are quite correct but only if the listener is not of the herd, of the dull listless Everyman programmed to trudge through airwaves clogged with infantile, growth-arresting, produced pabulum designed to dull the senses, perceptions, and thinking, not sharpen them, not wake one and all up more fully.
I suspect the Lapwing track, my favorite, was the one Fanous most had in mind regarding
his characterization come to fruition 'cause that's exactly the imagery I caught of Hwang's nimble inflections: a bird slipping through air, clouds, and emigrating flocks to exult in a hedonistic freedom only avians can plunge into. Fanous is often his foil here and evokes wild sets of obstacles, breezeways, slipstreams, and wind shades for Hwang, Fanous' playing more than a few times highly reminiscent of Kevin Kastning's individualistic work. Then he also takes off for the stars, plucking speed runs, atonal clusters, and the sort of vocabulary one expects from idiosyncratics like Frith, Bailey, and others…while always tracking fragments of orthodoxy in upside-down fashion.
If you're fond of Penderecki and some of that genius' more extreme opuses, Night of the Electronic Insects for instance, there's plenty of that beyond-the-pale work here, enough in fact to even start re-igniting memories of the old Wild West days of the Nonesuch electronic/experimental era 'cause these two cats are of the exact same crazy mentation as many of those hallowed estimables. Then, of course, there's been Paul Giger, the aforementioned six-string mavericks, and a welter of superior work in this style. Do not, I am warning you, leave your brain at the mall while essaying this outré but riveting release. If you do, you'll find it staggering back home bedraggled, bewildered, and wondering what the hell was going on while it was out indulging in, to quote the Coneheads, mass consumption. Zilzal's the antidote to that.