Figments, composed by Raymond J. Lustig and performed by the virtuosic pair, Duo Noire (Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett) is a unique and entrancing album that exists at the unusual intersection of minimalism and impressive classical guitar technique.
The first track, “Guadeloops,” sounds like soft rain in the forest, until 1:30 when a huge storm crashes in, and proceeds to ebb and flow throughout the rest of the piece. The push and pull feel of this track is oddly calming, even as dissonant, chunky chords plow their way through the headphones.
“Figment 2: 7e” is an experiment in patterns and arpeggios that sounds like a calmer, less dramatic Philip Glass piece, more like the film scores he’s written over the years. The technique in this piece, with the rapid scale passages, sounds ripped from a Rodrigo y Gabriela album, and all the talent to execute the challenging passages with it. Flippin and Mallett definitely don’t disappoint here, creating a chill track that isn’t the least bit boring.
In “Gazebonauts,” Lustig composed a slightly spacey and ethereal theme, undoubtedly leading to the play on words in the title. Maybe this piece should have been part of the film score for Gravity, where Sandra Bullock is floating free in space, trying to get back to Earth. This track showcases more patterns and repetitions, leading into dissonant, disjunct chords that keep the music from being dismissed as boring and homogenous.
The fourth track sounds like childhood and running through fields in your bare feet, risking a snake bite or at least poison ivy, and is aptly titled, “Caliphonia.” The arpeggios, technique, and chord structures sound distinctly reminiscent of bluegrass, which is a welcome deviation from the rest of the album. It seems like there is a melody missing from this piece—a bit like listening to an intro that never ends. It’s a nice background piece, but definitely feels more like an accompaniment than a complete work.
“By This Time Next Year” is a nostalgic, bluesy track that resonates of hopes, dreams, and broken promises. This track feels like a natural progression from the bluegrass, down home feel of the previous track, into a heavier, grittier piece of music that ends too soon.
The final track on the album, “Hybridizing,” is particularly Glass-ian in its composition and execution, which isn’t so much a criticism as an appreciative nod. There can be something hypnotic about minimalist music, something that transports you to another plane, even as dramatic changes in dynamics crash through the ear. “Hybridizing” has a hint of malevolence that suggests fate, or maybe destiny, has a devious plan.
The impressive technique displayed by Duo Noire is perfectly suited to Lustig’s delicious compositions, and you wouldn’t regret getting a hold of this; if you like acoustic guitar, bluegrass, minimalism, blues—or music at all—you’ll definitely enjoy this excellently produced and mastered album.