Some Other Time inverts the usual relationship between CDs and DVDs that come packaged together, and it’s about time. How often have you picked up such a combo and played the record repeatedly, but watched the video once before filing it away forevermore? Not this one. With all due respect to the audio CD, which is pretty swell, it’s the DVD that’s hard to stop playing.
Both come handsomely packaged in a book-like case; Kning know their stuff when it comes to making the artifact appealing. These production values extended to the discs. The audio set was recorded when Malcolm played in Göteberg, Sweden, in 2006, and its music has been registered with a transparency unusual in the New Zealander’s catalog. Every plucked note, every quivering gesture, every fuzzy thump and reverberant clang comes through, along with enough room sound to drive home the point that this is music that happened one time, in real time. Malcolm has recorded most of these tunes before on Homesick to Nowhere, but these performances are more relaxed and exploratory. The best comes first; Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” is transformed into a clanking 16 and a half minute-long epic bifurcated by an eerie swirl of singing steel that’ll make you forget your listening to a guitar, or a song, or music. It’s simply lost and lovely sound. “Incident at Owl Creek” brings Malcolm’s prodigious and singular technique to the fore. Using fingers, an e-bow, a spring hung from his guitar’s neck, and a couple other guitars at his feet, he not only keeps three separate streams of sound going, he makes them interact in a graceful dance. The only misstep comes when Malcolm adopts a cartoonish drawl to sing Hank Williams’ “Rambling Man”; the posture seems diminishing in the presence of so much expansive music.
The video is of more recent vintage, with a pair of Steve Lacy tunes bringing the jazz and some newer originals that leave the worldwide folk references of Malcolm’s earlier work behind in order to make room for something more insular and personal, but no less expressive. The film, which seems to have been filmed in Malcolm’s living room, is subtitled A Spanner in the Works. The title refers to the wrench that sits inside one of the guitars that Malcolm taps, boots, vibrates, and scrunches with steel wool using his feet; meanwhile, he picks, bows and tampers with a custom-built instrument festooned with extra strings and pickups cradled in his lap. The presentation is quite simple, with shots of Malcolm sitting and playing alternate with long close-ups of some unusual technique. There’s low-key but palpable drama in the way you see him struggling to keep his music flowing, a bow in one hand while the other frets and the letter opener between his teeth awaits eventual application. By the end of the video, you’ll know what he does, and maybe even how he does it. But because it’s not only Malcolm’s technique, but the breadth of his imagination that makes his music so marvelous, once just won’t be enough.