Wires Under Tension: Light Science
Western Vinyl

Wires Under Tension is a Slow Six offshoot that strips the band down to violinist Christopher Tignor and drummer Theo Metz, but anyone who thinks that the South Bronx-based duo's debut mini-album presents a bare-bones violin-and-drums attack is in for a surprise. Yes, Tignor's violin is front and center and, yes, Metz more than makes his muscular presence felt, but Light Science is dressed up with a mini-arsenal of additional sounds, a veritable plethora of acoustic instruments—mallet percussion and horns for starters—and electronic elements, including homemade software-based manipulations. Reflecting the grit of their home turf, the duo tears into the album's seven pieces with feverish aplomb, with only the closing track showing signs of restraint.

The template is set by the opening cut, “Electricity Turns Them On,” when an intricate weave of tinkling mallet percussion patterns and electronic burble pairs with Tignor's lead violin and Metz's aggressive rhythmning. In “A List of Things to Light On Fire,” Tignor takes a back seat to the front line of trumpet and trombone soloists, while Metz provides a propulsive tom-tom accompaniment. “Mnemonics in Motion” gets down with a funky strut laced with software-mutated violin swirls and augmented with Jared Bell on keyboards and an anthemic coda courtesy of Phil Rodriguez on trumpet and Peter Hess on saxophones. Interestingly, Tignor's played with Lymbyc Systym in recent times, and the high-energy attack Jared and Michael Bell bring to their own outfit (nicely documented on 2010's Shutter Release) carries over into the Wires Under Tension project. And at disc's end, the Russian-titled "Cказал, Cказала" (which roughly translates to "he said, she said") aligns a funereal, multi-layered drone with fusillades of drums that bring back distant memories of Billy Cobham's ferocious attack.

With Tignor's violin the primary melodic voice in this context, we hear as much if not more of his playing in this concentrated set than we might under other circumstances—and that's a good thing as he's just as comfortable singing sweetly as he is getting raw and dirty. What it amounts to is thirty-three prog-rock-cum-post-rock minutes of tricky time signatures, powerful drumming, and robust violin melodies; imagine Jerry Goodman's On the Wings of Aviation raised a few notches on the aggro meter and spiced with an occasional dollop of funk and you'll have some idea of the kind of muscular, high-energy music-making Wires Under Tension produces.

January 2011