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Alan Licht & Aki Onda - Everydays

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Artist: Alan Licht & Aki Onda

Album: Everydays

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Aug. 18, 2008

The cover of Alan Licht & Aki Onda's Everydays is a simple and graceful work of colored pencil by Takehito Koganezawa. The gestural sketch of a faceless man is shown engaged in some powerful and private labor. His donned gloves suggest contamination, or perhaps more likely, electricity, while his bare chest and feet give the act a tone of intimacy. It’s an apt and potent metaphor for both the disc's inner contents and the artistic pursuits of its creators. The man looks down at the mess that has unfolded through time, the tangled strands, then teases out meaning, beauty, maybe even a little ugliness. Those doodled red worms in his yellow paws may be sounds, images or memories. Considering the artists at hand, they're likely to be all three.

Though this is their debut recording as duo (at least in the proper sense), Onda and Licht collaborate frequently and that shared history must be an important part of Everydays. Onda is known for shelving his audio diary cassettes for years at a time before putting them to use, waiting for them to work up a certain charge through the power of memory. Here, the duo themselves seem to have worked up that magic dust and it's a much needed force considering the tools at hand.

Aki Onda's signature cassette remains in the forefront throughout the record, with Licht's guitar loops and wails forming clouds or flames around them. The content of his sampling offers little substance to anyone hoping to unearth hidden meanings. Birdchirp, walking crackle, horn wail, indecipherable chatter, screwed speech – everyday sounds obscured through the warmth of walkmen and tube amps' technological failings, affected through the processes of repetition and rewinding. Watching Onda perform live, one is likely to see little action. A button pressed, a step back, a nod acknowledging the characteristics of a changed sound environment. It's neither the naked qualities of his captured sounds nor his technical method that is the focus of his art. Instead, it's the unveiling of a relationship (and an exploration of that relationship) between an artist and his past or between a person and time itself.

For his part, Licht does a hell of a job holding it all together. His guitar drones, preparations and slippery repetitions keep Onda's simple sampling afloat. The loose blues that spill out toward the end of "Tiptoe" are the album's core beauty and the closest this investigation of memory comes to nostalgia. Elsewhere, Licht works up uneasy thunderstorms of hum and distortion, his guitar strings shaking like the hands of anxious people.

By Sean Schuster-Craig

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