Three Italian Guitarists Turn Finger-style Guitar On Its Ear.
Last Stop, The Monkey in NYC
If there’s one type of CD that crosses the Echoes transom most frequently, it’s finger-style guitar. And at this point, it’s rare to find something new in that world. Tommy Emmanuel is a virtuoso with frightening technique. But his music is based on tradition. Michael Hedges was the last truly big explosion, taking the guitar into uncharted directions. Guitar groups have been springing up all over, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the California Guitar Trio and International Guitar Night. Great bands all, but mainly they amplify the effect of one guitar with another couple more guitars.
But Guitar Republic from Italy is a different beast. Individually, Pino Forastiere, Stefano Barone and Sergio Altamura almost sound like three guitarists when they play solo. Technique is not an issue with these musicians. But what they do together explodes the guitar ensemble concept. Each musician is an adept of post-Michael Hedges two-handed guitar tapping as well as guitar as a percussion instrument. Their instruments are testament to those effects with dings, scratches and lacquer scrapped down to the wood. Barone’s guitar is literally held together with duct tape. But they are sacrificed for a good cause, an orchestral approach to the guitar ensemble that has global percussion breakouts, cello etudes, avant-garde sound effects and blue slides, all from 3 guitars.
Think Hedges meets Fred Frith and Tommy Emmanuel and you have an inkling of Guitar Republic’s approach. Forastiere is the melodicist of the group, lacing together lyrical journeys using his two-handed tapping. Barone has a more rhythmic attack, spinning melodies while slamming beats with the heal of his picking hand. Altamura is the experimentalist in the group. He might caress his strings with some weird electronic device, giving it the sound of a hammered dulcimer. Or he might inserts bolts and CDs between the strings to create vibrations like African mbiras or a doussn’gouni. Then he tucks it between his leg like a cello and bows it. (see video below)
All these approaches converge into some kind of 21st century chamber orchestra of sound. On a tune like “Luna Park Republic,” (all their songs have republic or GR in the titles), they execute intricate overlapping finger-tapped lines out of which each artist emerges for a solo that seems to grow out of the fabric of sound. “Ghetto Republic ” has raging blues slides played on lap steel by Altamura, while on another they take you into a haunting house of pings, squeeks and scrapes.
None of their songs have conventional structure. These aren’t verse-chorus-verse in search of a singer. Instead Guitar Republic takes you on a trip into their imaginary world, created on guitars.
Guitar Republic performed a great Echoes Living Room Concert yesterday that will air next month. That focused on the more melodic side of their sound. But their performance at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia was a different universe as they dug into a deeper percussive groove and wider dynamic range. The handful of devout audience members saw a one of a kind performance. As one of them enthused to Pino Forastiere, “I have never seen anything like this!”
New Yorkers’ get a chance to hear this amazing trio on the final stop of their US tour playing at The Monkey, Sunday, April 25 at 7:00 PM.
Their debut album is called Guitar Republic on Candyrat Records.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))