Release date: February 23, 2024
The scene is familiar: a hushed room, dimmed lights, musicians entering from stage left and right. But London’s Cafe OTO is no ordinary room, and this is no ordinary night. Steve Gunn and David Moore have arrived at the coda of their European tour supporting Let the Moon Be a Planet, a collaborative album issued the prior month as the inaugural volume of RVNG Intl.’s Reflections series. Their interplay has been harmoniously honed to ecstatic heights, and documented in delicate detail with Live in London.
Gunn and Moore’s collaboration is as logical and overdue as its initial circumstances are unexpected. The two had been orbiting each other for the better part of two decades, occupying adjacent corners of New York’s music scene: Gunn straddling the twin poles of his solo work as a celebrated singer-songwriter and more experimental, group outings on guitar, while Moore’s work as a pianist has reached wide acclaim within the minimalist ensemble Bing & Ruth. Despite their proximity and longstanding mutual admiration, Let the Moon Be a Planet was realized in entirely remote settings, with neither musician occupying the same space during the album sessions. The handful of dates that preceded their arrival at Cafe OTO on April 10, 2023, were among the first instances where they found themselves playing together in the same place and time.
Prior to embarking on their tour – tracing its way through Scandinavia and Northern Europe before arriving in London for its penultimate evening – the duo developed a set of compositions that used pieces that appear on Let the Moon Be a Planet as loose armatures, allowing their earlier explorations to evolve toward new states of being through openness and adaptation. This process continued on the road. Gunn explains, “By the time we got to OTO, we had lived in the music in a variety of rooms and discovered a new freedom in our exchange. The structures started to break open the more we played, almost dissolving our original starting points.”
While each have their undeniable virtues, live music is an entirely different affair from what we most commonly encounter in studio recordings. Particularly when embracing improvisation, as in the case of Gunn and Moore’s set at Cafe OTO; it is raw, responsive, vulnerable, and capable of reaching creative pinnacles that rarely appear when the chance for revision is in the cards. Bearing Let the Moon Be a Planet’s overarching sensibility of meditative calm and tonal interplay, as well as certain themes, Live in London’s five compositions should be regarded as free-standing and entirely new. They bear witness to Gunn and Moore discovering a path forward and assembling each piece from ethereal fragments in real time.
Into the ambiences and rustles of the room, the audience hushed and huddled close, Moore’s shimmering piano melodies grace the dance of Gunn’s interventions on guitar. Imbued with a haunting sense of beauty, as the duo stretches out – unfurling and contracting a singularly delicate sense of tension – each tone, shift, and departure falls into a perfectly balanced and responsive conversation with the next. Both Gunn and Moore are undeniably virtuosic players, but skill falls second to emotiveness and restraint. Their notes hang and ache in the air, carving an unexpected middle-ground between ambient music and a slow motion psychedelic jam.
Steve Gunn and David Moore’s Live in London is the end of a journey and the beginning of another. It is two artists embracing the joys of playing together and taking each of us along for the ride. A limited vinyl edition will arrive in time for a new round of live shows in February and March, available exclusively from Steve and David on tour and direct from RVNG, with Japanese import CD, via Plancha, and digital editions in store for February 23, 2024.