Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins


Various Artists – I NEVER META GUITAR (CFG 005)
I get a kick out of how deceptive this disc’s title is. The invocation of the qualifier “meta” suggests that this compilation of brief solo pieces might be fairly self-reflective, self-questioning, even self-regarding. And indeed, many of the post-Bailey developments in guitar (thinking here of all the Rowe-inspired players) have focused on problematizing not just the instrumental associations the guitar has but on problematizing instrumentalism full stop. How interesting then that the vast majority of these pieces – many of which are multi-tracked, electronically supplemented, or occasionally “interrupted” by a tape or similar production move – are sentimental and quite lyrical. Gloriously so, I might add. Not all of the sixteen tracks are equally successful, but the level of accomplishment is so high (and the way it works as an album so surprising, given how often such compilations fall flat) that it’s easy to overlook the minor missteps and focus on the fab.
Mary Halvorson’s “In Two Parts Missing” is one of the most harmonically dense pieces here, with fragments of bop phraseology strung together but regularly upended by spring-loaded moments where it sounds as if something has snapped internally, leading to a massive electronic quaver, a “sproing!” that’s quite excellent. Jeff Parker’s fully formed “Act As If Nothing Ever Happened” is gorgeously, gauzily melancholy. Henry Kaiser’s “Blame it on the Tonkori” is built around chiming 12-string, with lovely ebowed feedback that sounds like a whistle (which I couldn’t help hearing as a nod to Robbie Basho). Only two players are relatively new to me: Jean-Francois Pauvros’ bowing isn’t quite my thing, but I love Janet Feder’s raw strumming. Raoul Bjorkenheim’s rhythmic language is distinctive even in solo context (“I Told You So”), and he comfortably occupies the disc’s middle section along with a series of stunners from Noël Akchoté (I’m a sucker for his sweetly lyrical “Joanna”), Nels Cline (his distinctive lyrical language is so emphatic on “Study for a Hairpin and Hatbox”), Brandon Ross, and a heart-stopping slide showcase from Mike Cooper. After that run, the next few pieces don’t quite win me over as much: Michael Gregory actually plays trio blues, Scott Fields and Kazuhisa Uchihashi fuss and scrabble a bit, and Mick Barr does his solo Orthrelm thing. But the disc closes strongly, with a visit to Gunnar Geisse’s spectral drone world on “The Day Rauschenberg Met De Kooning” and a goodnight kiss of fractal madness from E#. Quibble if you will about who’s not here (Joe Morris, anyone?) but this is top shelf stuff.
http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/monthly2010/12dec_text.html#8

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