Insular experimental duo Charalambides have created a self-contained world of sound since their murky beginnings in the early '90s. Over the course of more than 20 years and dozens of limited-run releases, the group explored places both spiritual and earthly, their improvisations built on Christina Carter's haunted vocalizations and Tom Carter's unhurried guitar ruminations. The Charalambides avoided allegiance with any number of musical movements over the years, though elements of their sound were in line with various different scenes that came and went. Instead, the group existed largely as an entity unto themselves, exploring their personal visions of expression and refracting them on stellar records released over the years on Kranky, Siltbreeze, Time-Lag, and many other labels.
Charalambides formed in Houston, Texas in 1991, taking their name from the surname of a regular customer at the local record shop. Briefly going under the name Mutual Admiration Society, guitarist Tom Carter and vocalist/guitarist Christina Carter were joined by their friend Kyle Silfer for the first few years of the band. Silfer joined them for sporadic live performances but the group quickly solidified as a duo, recording frequently at home and sharing the best of their psychedelic improvisations on debut cassette Our Bed Is Green. Released in 1993 by the band, this lengthy collection featured recordings made in the first several years of the project, and opened the flood gates for more formal recordings. They joined forced with noise rock label Siltbreeze for 1994's Union and 1995's double-album Market Square, both of which featured additional guitarist Jason Bill. Bill's time in the band would be short-lived, and over the years other players would occasionally sit in during a performance or recording session (most notably pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh Murray) but the band remained centered around the core duo of the Carters. Throughout the late '90s and early 2000s, the band released a mountain of new material, ranging from numerous low-budget CD-R or hand-cut lathe releases to more fully realized albums such as 1998's Houston or 2004's Joy Shapes, which was released on venerable space rock label Kranky. By this time the duo had been married for some time and relocated to Austin, Texas, though by the mid-2000s, they'd divorced and Tom would eventually move to the East Coast. Despite their split, the duo continued to work on music together, turning in some of their most ambitious work in a series of albums for Kranky such as 2007's Likeness and 2011's Exile, which featured expanded instrumentation and the inclusion of a string section. Both artists also worked on various solo projects and in configurations with other improvisers. Things slowed down for the Charalambides somewhat in the summer of 2012 when Tom Carter came down with septic shock while on tour in Europe. He had to be hospitalized in Berlin for months, spending 40 days in the Intensive Care Unit. Surviving this near-death experience, Carter returned to the States and the regularly prolific duo were quiet until the release of 2018's excellent Tom and Christina Carter, a sprawling double album recorded in two sessions with no overdubs. ~ Fred Thomas~ Rovi