After the gut-punch of Avecís superb debut, If I Breathe I Fall Asleep, itís a little weird that Shawna Potter and Brooks Harlan--the bandís Medusa-haired, ax-wielding frontwoman and scientifically minded frontman--would want to record the follow-up on their own, just the two of them. Then again, the sexually charged interplay between Harlan and Potterís voices and guitars has always been Avecís strongest asset, and the pairís been playing live sets under the guise of AVECduet for a while now, in addition to sporadic full-band shows.
Youíd expect AVECduetís debut to be a stripped-down version of the quartetís usual sound, but the album finds Harlan and Potter handling drum and electronic duties in addition to guitar and vocal chores. Songs such as opener "Chase Adam" and closer "To Bet Against" pair Potterís rich, sensual voice with vaguely flamenco guitar, and "An Archive" features the duoís trademark dueling vocals and sounds a helluva lot like full-strength Avec. But "Good Cherub," an airy, Radiohead-esque reprise of the first verse or so of "Best of Your Letters," pales in comparison to the original. Previously recorded live favorites such as "The Piper" and "Doubled Over" are given the acoustic treatment, an intimate approach that heightens the emotion and tension of lines like "Children kiss and rot" and "Iím sore from sex that never even happened."
In fact, fully half of AVECduetís CD consists of reworked or re-recorded Avec songs, including an unusual, electronica-inflected version of "Deceptive Cadence," one of the strongest songs in the bandís arsenal. Though itís damn good, retaining all of the original recordingís introspective feminine vitriol, the new version feels superfluous when compared with the full-band version. Still, even pared-down Avec is one of Baltimoreís most formidable rock outfits, and fans will welcome this new incarnation.