Review of E.A.D.G.B.E. [12k1025]

The Sound Collector (UK)

A fairly enjoyable guitar compilation featuring four international stars of the fretboard. All the featured players seem to inhabit very similar sound-worlds, and if taken in one sitting the entire CD can appear to be a single extended piece in 14 movements. “Contemporary sonic hybrids of guitar and digital processing” is how this is sold to us. Certainly, all musicians treat the sound of the guitar quite extensively, in some cases almost to point of unrecognisability. Half of this could be mistaken for average electronica. Their apparent love of rich, tonal chords can also start to grate on the nerves – it veers from being moving, to cloyingly sweet. Indeed, final verdict is that this is something of a “sissy” record, and should be set aside if you like your guitars gritty and loud.

Fonica are a Japanese duo, Keiichi Sugimoto and Cheason. They come across like a subdued, cartoon-version of Robert Fripp, with their skillfully played cascades of notes, extremely “nice” major chords, all formed into droning, shimmering pieces that resemble rotating crystal balls. Come to think of it, stern-lipped overlord Fripp was never this approachable, not even if you count “Book Of Saturday!” American player keith Fullerton Whitman has made solo guitar records for Kranky, Locust, Tonschact, and others; what little I’ve heard from him is like “Lettera” here, a nine-minute opus which is almost a mini-symphony in its shifting complexity. While moving slowly, it has more twists and turns than a jade labyrinth and some of his unpredictable changes are pleasingly bewildering. Again, a “full ” and resonant sound emerges, a coppery ocean large enough to bathe in.

S├ębastien Roux’s three pieces are similarly moving, rich, quiet, slow, and.. very “nice.” Not far away from the world of Ian Epps (I played both in the same sitting), and Frenchman Roux also uses the ‘stutter’ effect to add a certain patina to his sound. Heaven knows what scarey equipment these guitarists must use. He’s more of a composer, processing vv ery simple guitar drones in a digital way. Roux works at IRCAM in Paris, where he’s in charge of “room effect synthesis tools”. Great way to earn a living. Christopher Willits, based in San Francisco, pretty much owns the second half of the CD; has to be said he’s about the most saccharine of the four players, and it remains to be seen how often i’ll be revisiting his section. He leads off with seven miniatures which he called “Seven Machines for Summer” – and delivers twee, sweet daintly melodies that are, effectively, guitar embroidery. yes, the man is a big girl’s blouse! In his pursuit of excellence in guitar craft and melody, he’s staying close to 70’s popular prog (Renaissance, that sort of era) which gives cause for concern. His final track “Champagne And Soda”, however, gives hope; much more abstract and scrapey it be, though not much to put on a postcard to the folks back home. – Ed Pinsent.

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