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Sharing a love of collaboration, lyricism, and challenging instrumental dialogue, mandolin virtuosos Chris Thile and Mike Marshall merge their talents on Into the Cauldron, a scintillating collection of originals and covers. Thile, of newgrass up-and-comers Nickel Creek, and Marshall, from the Modern Mandolin Quartet, push each other's stylistic boundaries on this multilayered instrumental disc, which finds them rethinking everything from song structure to melody lines on Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple" and Bach's "Goldberg Variations," engaging one another in musical tête-à-têtes that spotlight both the tenderness and the feistiness in their fretwork. The two play the beautiful twin melody lines in the traditional "Fisher's Hornpipe" flawlessly and at breathtaking speed, sacrificing none of the soulful tune's feeling. A more adventurous journey, Thile's self-penned "Stranded in Kodiak" can be heard in movements, starting with a delicate opening stanza that gives way to a frenzied middle section of insistent single-note cries and the howl of hammered chords, before a final, peaceful passage of lightly strummed chords resolves the drama. "Something Quite Trifling," co-written by Marshall and Thile, is anything but, as one picker responds to the other's graceful, darting solo with an equally brazen flight up and down the neck, while throwing in an attention-getting quote from the evergreen pop song "Lover Come Back to Me." It pays to listen closely throughout, as the pair have made sure to keep the background nuances as intriguing as the solos. Into the Cauldron demands repeated listening and pays off bountifully.