Look, I’m a sucker for guitar and drums duos. Some of my best teenage memories revolve around Rura’pente, a guitar and drums combo I played in. We’d simply shred. Spiral Wave Nomads – Eric Hardiman and Michael Kiefer – do a lot more than that. First Encounters follows-up last year’s killer self-titled debut and shows how much mileage you can get out of two instruments when skillfully employed.
First Encounters is the second album from Spiral Wave Nomads and it picks up where their self-titled debut left off. Methodical guitar sequences rise and fall like ancient empires over Kiefer’s building rhythms on opener “Evidence of New Gravitation.” Something about the combination of chords and lead notes is timeless, an aural representation of something you’d read in history books. It sprawls and feels massive. Weaving through triumphant passages and locked, slow grooves, the pathway transports you to the other side of the abyss.
The duo shows a wide range on First Encounters. Psychedelic fuzz romps kick off the b-side with “Radiant Drifter.” Immediate images of desert ghost towns abandoned to the environment swirl around until Hardiman kicks into high gear and shreds the last standing buildings in a wash of wah-laced solos. Close your eyes and kick back because this is so.me gnarly bliss. Where “Radiant Drifter” soars, “Fitful Embers” clatters to the ground. Disintegrating percussion underscores Hardiman’s fractured sonic shards flitting through free jazz-adjacent zones. Unexpected as the entire piece is, it works. It sounds like something I’d expect to hear on Astral Spirits.
Consistently, First Encounters surprises. Hardiman and Kiefer deliver a vast range of ideas with a minimal palette showing off their deft talents. Clearly there’s a deep symmetry between the two of them as everything flows, never sounding forced or disjointed. By the time the meditative spread of closer “Similar Mind” fades out, you’ve been on one hellof a trip. First Encounters offers 40 minutes of escape.