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Improvisational duo James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida bring direction to doom

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When you think of risky behavior, "listening to improvisational guitar-and-drums duo" could make the list -- somewhere just below "driving under the influence," but maybe above "Russian roulette." The ways in which this configuration could turn sour are countless.

Thus, one might be quick to discount the duo of James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida -- unless one already knows their combined curriculum vitae. Both were in the brutal doom supergroup Khanate. Plotkin appeared 20 years ago in O.L.D. and has released countless recordings solo and in collaborations, and as Atomsmasher/Phantomsmasher. Wyskida, meanwhile, took over the drummer's throne in the legendary Blind Idiot God in 2001 and plays bass in the more post-rock-leaning BIG side project, Downriver.

After Khanate's dissolution last fall, Plotkin and Wyskida continued to work together, recording an album of eight improvisations released by Archive, a label specializing in limited-run, mostly live doom and drone releases. The record contains obvious traces of the duo's lineage: The fuzzed-out, downtuned guitar wouldn't be out of place on a Southern Lord release.

But this isn't a doom outfit: It's jazz in a grim robe. Wyskida's drumming is spastic and varied, and both players constantly shift everything: rhythm, tempo, dynamics. Even when the guitar work isn't going far up and down the neck, it's far from a drone. Some improv acts feel directionless; with Plotkin and Wyskida, musical ideas develop and are explored, but in most cases aren't dwelled upon. This is a pair of experienced musicians who know one another well.

Plotkin and Wyskida appear at Kiva Han on Thu., April 26; those who take a chance on guitar-and-drums improv may find a weighty reward. There's only one way to find out.

James Plotkin and Tim Wyskida with Sister Suvi and Slices. 8:30 p.m. Thu., April 26. Kiva Han Coffeehouse, 120 S. Craig St., Oakland. $8. All ages. 412-361-2262

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