Spencer Friedman and Paul de Jong – Functions (EP, 2018)

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Spencer Friedman and Paul de Jong live on the fringes of music and these Engine Studios recordings of a pair of spontaneous performances capture the guitarist and cellist not just living there but thriving. Functions dives deeper into a collaborative relationship where each have appeared on the other’s solo projects as well as both making up two-thirds of the Uncle Happiness trio.

Mixing guitar and cello in a duo setting isn’t really new, but it was a more novel idea in the prior decade when de Jong got together with guitarist Nick Zammuto to make experimental pop records in the 2000’s as the now-defunct two-man band The Books. In that project, sound collages were also part of the recipe whereas there’s no sampling to mingle with the hand-played instruments on Functions. That doesn’t mean this is any less unconventional, though. In fact, this collaboration and Friedman is arguably further out in left field, as this music is not exactly underpinned by pop melodies and Friedman — true to his tutelage from improvised guitar icon Joe Morris — has stronger avant-garde leanings.

Functions isn’t a full-fledged album; this EP has only two improv tracks running about ten-eleven minutes a piece. “The Third Function” and “Function the Seventh” at times show the same randomness that marks The Books’ recordings even though there’s none of the crafty editing from a library of pre-recorded sounds into the handcrafted performances. That randomness, which blurs the distinction between playing notes and treating their instruments as found objects, occasionally succeeds in making it impossible to figure out if the sounds are coming from guitar, cello or arpeggione. It’s that opaque fickleness juiced by prowess on their instruments that makes this both so different and yet so compelling.

Pick up a download of Functions from Spencer Friedman and Paul de Jong’s Bandcamp page.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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