Wendy Eisenberg Credit: Charmaine Lee

Multi-instrumentalist Wendy Eisenberg plays in lots of different settings, but no matter what they’re doing, their music always carries a tinge of no-wave. It’s perhaps easier to hear in their rock-centered projects, Birthing Hips and Editrix, but a dash of off-kilter flair seeps into even the low-key ensemble affair of Eisenberg’s 2019 record Auto. With Bloodletting, issued on the Out of Your Head imprint from Richmond, Virginia, Eisenberg pares down to a solo context, splitting time between guitar and banjo to record a set of four compositions twice, once on each instrument. It’s vernacular music of the most hushed variety, with empty spaces that give Eisenberg room to plot their next move. Played on banjo, “Ostara” runs about two minutes shorter, and the instrument’s ancient twang and echo simultaneously evoke its African roots and Appalachian applications. 

A reference to Western classical music crops up on the pair of tracks called “Scherzo.” That term, which usually indicates a brief, lively tune, might seem like a clue as to how these pieces fit together—a scherzo is often the third movement of a four-movement suite, and here the word is attached to the third guitar track and the third banjo track. Eisenberg turns in quick-step runs of plucked notes on the banjo version before switching to scratchy extended technique; the guitar version comes together at a much slower clip, providing extra insight into the improvisatory impulses they entertain while performing these compositions. Eisenberg already divides their time among varied pursuits in the company of well-known experimentalists—the Flying Luttenbachers, Ches Smith, Trevor Dunn, Shane Parrish—and we can expect their future path to bend to their will, honoring experimentation as well as historical strictures and guided by their acumen on the stringed instrument of their choosing.

Wendy Eisenberg’s Bloodletting (Out of Your Head) is available on Bandcamp.