It helps, I think, to imagine John Zorn as the rude one in this couple, and Fred Frith as the polite one. In their collaborations, as in their work outside those collaborations, alto saxophonist (and Tzadik label maven) Zorn waved a rude goodbye to listenability ages ago; his followers must now concentrate through barrages of ever-cascading sound shreds. Guitarist Frith, like Zorn, can produce most any timbre he cares to—but restricts himself, in this latest round of duets, to flat, broad, drone patterns, a grounding from which Zorn launches himself, falls back, breaks, and springs anew.
Armed with a raging soul harnessed to his mastery of technique, Zorn pulls one adroit line after another from his horn. The listener, having worked hard listening through the spiky soundscapes frontloaded on the disc, gets a reprieve with softer, lyrical interludes through the middle. Frith hangs in steadfastly throughout, declaring his mastery in a quieter and more mutable manner. The duo remains vigilant on the outpost of the avant-garde, sending home messages from a fascinating front.