Versions is the second collaborative effort from tone-and-form-bending guitarist David Daniell (now an Asheville resident) and Douglas McCombs, bassist for the powerfully experimental rock polyglot Tortoise. Though culled from the same seven-hour session that birthed the duo's 2009 effort, Sycamore, Versions sounds like the result of a fresh trip to the studio, building on Sycamore's strengths and affirming Daniell and McCombs as well-matched talents.
The first half of the double LP package comprises newly edited cuts from the players' original collaboration, and it is far and away the more convincing of the two discs. From the sensational guitar flare-up and subsequent cool down of "Burn After Reading" to the percolated picking of the pretty but less satisfying "30265," Versions packs an impressive range. Edited by Tortoise alum Ken "Bundy K." Brown, the album maintains a more consistent rhythmic center than its predecessor, making the pair's hypnotic meanderings easier to cling to.
The second LP offers two live cuts that display both the rewards and frustrations of Daniell's and McCombs' unchecked sprawl. The duo's tones ooze and undulate in this setting, congealing slowly into engrossing slabs of exquisite noise. From the perspective of craftsmanship, the buildup is fascinating, but it's easy to let your mind wander during the songs' expansive preambles.
In terms of pure capability, Versions is a marvel, a selection of sophisticated sounds from two incredibly gifted musicians. But it moves too slowly, making it most useful as a passive listen rather than an active one.