Posts Tagged ‘Electric Guitar’

John Diliberto’s Top 10 CDs 2013

December 30, 2013

This was one of the hardest lists ever to compile.  It’s different from 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2013, which is our picks of the best music played on Echoes.  And it’s also different from The Best of Echoes 2013 Listener Poll results.   These are my picks from all the music I heard in what turned out to be an epic year for new music.  And in an epic year, these are the albums that rose to the top of the top for me.

Metheny-Tap-Tzadik-cvr1- Pat MethenyTap: John Zorn’s The Book of Angels, Vol. 20
Metheny takes fragmentary themes from composer John Zorn’s “Book of Angels” series and orchestrates them into expansive, electro-symphonic works.  The fact that it features some of Metheny’s most unbridled and psychedelic guitar playing in years is just a bonus.

Stories2- Rhian Sheehan –  Stories from Elsewhere
On his 7th album, Stories from Elsewhere Rhian Sheehan created one of the most sublime shadings of ambient chamber music since Harold Budd’s Pavillion of Dreams.  It’s a magical CD of soaring strings, surging rhythms, childlike music boxes and ambient expanses that sounds both familiar and timeless. It was a CD of the Month in May.

UNQOTSA-5003 – Olivier Libaux Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age
I don’t know if I could’ve gotten behind an album more than I did Olivier Libaux’s sublime covers of music by alt-metal band Queen’s of the Stone Age.  Part of the New Wave/Punk cover band Nouvelle Vague.  Libaux stepped out on his own to record the albums with singers including Emilianna Torinni and Inara George. He accomplished a melancholy re-imagining of this alt-metal band’s music. It was a CD of the Month in July.

TimeLapse4 – Ludovico Einaudi –  In a Time Lapse
In a Time Lapse is a defining album on which pianist/composer Ludovico Einaudi pulled out all the stops, synthesizing a 21st century classicism that is all-embracing in its musical influences, and all-enveloping in its emotional sweep. It was Echoes CD of the Month in March,

Innocents-2505 – Moby   Innocents
Moby completes a trilogy of atmospheric, introspective songs that began with Wait for Me and Destroyed.  A CD of the Month in NovemberInnocents is the most soothing melancholy.

Olafur-Arnalds-For-Now-I-Am-Winter-2506 – Ólafur Arnalds   For Now I Am Winter
Both sophisticated and edgy, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds inhabits his own sonic universe, balancing emotions and mood on a laser’s edge of strings echoing out of frozen skies and electronics trawling the substrata.  For Now I Am Winter is his most mature work to date and a CD of the Month in April.

Long Way To Fall7 – Ulrich Schnauss A Long Way To Fall
A wonderfully melodic, groove driven album of synthesizer wonder as Ulrich Schnauss explores childhood memories with electronic dreams.  The title track will leave you breathless.  It was an Echoes CD of the Month in February.

WInterwell8 – Mree   Winterwell
Serene dream pop from a 19 year old musician who comes from a singer-songwriter tradition but creates Enya like choirs with her voice on this lush and powerful album.

Bleeding-Raainbow-Yeah-Right CVR9 – Bleeding Rainbow   Yeah, Right
This Philadelphia based band created a garage-rock psychedelic ecstacy that often attained the epic mixing shoegaze guitars with motoric grooves and heroic girl-group choruses from singer Sarah Everton.  I’m still trying to figure out why Savages got so much hipster attention and this album slipped away.  Play it loud and you’ll wonder why as well.

kveikur10- Sigur Ros  Kveikur
Sigur Ros kick out the jams on this album of delirious, roiling textures and Jonsi’s falsetto melodies of prayer.  This is one of the Icelandic groups more aggressive outings which is saying a lot for a band that has no restraints in their electric storm.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))


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Where’s the Wah-Wah?: PBS Hendrix Documentary Misses the Mark

November 11, 2013

Jimi Hendrix’s solo on “’Voodoo Child,’ was like a Harley-Davidson screaming out of the sky.” –Conny Plank.

Experienced I recently posted on Facebook on the EchoesFans page about the PBS American Masters documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ because I found myself emotionally affected by the memories it was triggering.  Someone on Facebook wondered why I got so wistful about it and I, perhaps a little too snarkily, replied that “If you listen to the music and have the memories, you know.”  After watching the entire documentary I realized that’s actually truer than I thought.  My memory was filling in all the elements that the film left out.

The main takeaways I got from Hear My Train a Comin’ are Hendrix was a great guy, an amazing guitarist and all he wanted to do was play.  Beyond that, the American Masters documentary sheds little light on this figure who is beyond iconic.  In fact, while note inferior to the original Jimi Hendrix documentary from 1973, it is missing a few of its virtues.

AxisGatefoldThat documentary, released only three years after Hendrix’s death, had compelling interview segments with guitarists who were contemporaries of Hendrix like Eric Clapton, who was extremely touching in his reverence for Hendrix, and The Who’s Pete Townsend who had the most insightful comments on Hendrix’s arrival in London and his Monterey Pop performance.  His recollection about the discussion between him and Hendrix over who would go on last at Monterey reveals just how high Hendrix raised the bar.  But there are few of Hendrix’s guitar hero contemporaries in Hear My Train a Comin’ other Billy Gibbons of  ZZ Top and he wasn’t very illuminating. More importantly, no contemporary musicians testifying to his extraordinary influence outside of Vernon Reid and Dweezil Zappa.  Monster guitarists both,  but they couldn’t get someone with a little more weight?   So many people state that Hendrix changed music and the electric guitar, but how?

Electric-DVDHendrix’s legacy resides in the sound he got from the guitar, yet, except for several vague allusions, there’s almost no talk about how he got that sound, what it entailed, who influenced him, what his technology was.  I don’t think it’s too geeked out to want some analysis of just what Hendrix was doing to get that doomed, ominous fuzz he had on “Purple Haze,” which had never been heard before.  Hendrix didn’t invent the wah-wah pedal, but he invented the language for it and to this day, no one has played it as effectively. I would’ve loved to hear some discussion about the way Hendrix used the studio as an instrument on Axis: Bold as Love and in particular, the “C-side” of Electric Ladyland.  The BBC Classic Albums documentary:  At Last… The Beginning – The Making of Electric Ladylandgives vastly more insight into Hendrix’s music making.

Fayne Pridgeon, Hendrix’s New York City girlfriend, is reduced to repeating over and over that Hendrix was a shy and sweet guy who just wanted to play and always had his guitar with him.  But in the 1973 doc, a younger Pridgeon has joyful recollections of Hendrix’s enthusiasm for Bob Dylan, something which isn’t mentioned at all in Hear My Train a Comin’, except for Ellen McIlwaine’s memory that Hendrix adopted Dylan’s 60s hairstyle.  It’s a curious exclusion considering that Hendrix’s version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is one of his best known recordings .

Hendrix-MovieAnd in a fashion all too typical in documentaries on the 60s, they blow right by the psychedelic “experience.”  There are vague references to drugs, but little talk about their impact on his music, which is immense.  It’s like not talking about the influence of Woody Guthrie on Bob Dylan or just ignoring the impact of New York City in Lou Reed’s music.

There are a few nice touches: Paul McCartney’s personal reflections about Hendrix playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and getting him the gig at Monterey; the radio ads for Hendrix concerts, including the one calling him the “number one Progressive Rock act in the world.”  Linda Keith had a great handle on many aspects of Hendrix’s life and music and Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke had some contextualizing perspectives.  But many opportunities were missed so that a dozen interview subjects could say Hendrix was a great guy, an amazing guitar player and he was shy.

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ is an enjoyable documentary, but director Bob Smeaton missed a few too many stops along the way.  And there’s nothing as poetic as the late Conny Plank’s description above.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))



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Colin Edwin & Jon Durant’s Post-Apocalyptic Burnt Beliefs.

January 25, 2013

Burnt-BeliefHear the Echoes Podcast with Colin Edwin & Jon Durant

Porcupine Tree is among the most popular of the recent generation of Progressive Rock groups.  They’ve even enjoyed chart success.  Colin Edwin is their highly regarded bass player.  Jon Durant is much less well known, but he’ been putting out wonderful ambient-laced electric guitar albums for a couple of decades now.  The two musicians got together recently to record an album of guitar and bass duets that goes way beyond that description.  It’s called Burnt Belief.

Remember that Mayan thing, when the world was supposed to end on January 21 2012, the day the Mayan calendar ran out?  Apparently, that didn’t happen, but it did inspire an album by Jon Durant and Colin Edwin.  They timed the release of Burnt Belief for December 22,the day after the apocalypse.

“I’ve always been fascinated by what happens when people have a very deep seated belief and that belief is kind of proven wrong,” says bassist Colin Edwin. “And it was so bizarre because of course, when it fails to happen, the interesting thing is these people, they become even more entrenched in their beliefs.  You know, they kind of justify the fact that it hasn’t happened by saying that there’s something wrong with them and it will happen at a future date.  So I don’t think for a minute that the world is gonna end on Dec. 21, you know, of this year, next week, but for me it’s about kind of provoking the thought, ultimately the thought that I would like people to have about it is you know, what do you believe and why, you know. ”

Obviously the world didn’t end, but some of the music on Burnt Belief might be suitable for a post-apocalyptic time.

The project began in 2010 when guitarist Jon Durant asked Edwin to play on his CD, Dance of the Shadow Planets.  The collaboration worked so well they decided to record an entire CD together.

“When we worked together on Shadow Planets and he’s playing live in the room with us, it wasn’t the typical thing for me with all the guitar players I’ve had in the past,” exudes Edwin from his home outside of London. “They just want to solo on everything or play a really loud riff.”

Jon Durant joins in the mutual admiration exchange. “A great bass player isn’t defined by how many notes he can play,” professes Durant from his home outside of Boston.  “That’s not the sort of voice that would work in the context of my music.  And Colin really, he knows when to say nothing, which is important, when to just hit that one great note that just leaves you breathless, and when to add a melodic phrase and do so with real intention.

You can hear the complete interview with Jon Durant and Colin Edwin, including their talk about Middle Eastern music and Peter Gabriel’s Passion in the Echoes Podcast.

~John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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Genuflections and Reflections at Ash Ra Tempel

August 17, 2008

I always thought of Manuel Göttsching, who records under his own name and more famously as Ashra and Ash Ra Tempel, as the most soulful of the Berlin Trinity:  Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel.

His compositions had a warmth the others lacked and his guitar leads flitted between dangerous micro-second precision on Inventions for Electric Guitar and sensual psychedelic trips into ecstacy on New Age of Earth and Blackouts. New Age of Earth Blackouts

When you wait more than three decades before you get a chance to see an artist, expectations can be high. That was the case for the three-quarter full house that sat in the pews of St. Mary’s Church in Philadelphia, ready to genuflect before the 55-year old musician. Produced by The Gatherings, this was only Göttsching’s second US performance ever. His first was the night before in a rain-drenched outdoor event at the Lincoln Center in New York

Göttsching opened with a 45 minute opus called “Die Mulde.” Originally composed for an art installation called 34 Mirrors R.S.V.P. by Mercedes Engelhardt,  Göttsching projected a video of the original event where he was playing in a field with large mirrors, performing the same score he was now playing live in the church.  With a film crew at St. Mary’s to capture the concert,  Göttsching was being filmed in the church, playing in front of an 11-year old video of him playing at the original event . Given the mirror theme of the video, it seemed appropriate but also part of the consensual illusion the audience agreed upon, accepting that Manual Göttsching was playing live, when in fact, this was a Music Minus One performance with virtually everything coming off the computer. It was a prerecorded event of a pre-recorded event ready to be recorded once again.

Most of the music came off of Göttsching’s laptop,  while he occassionally played some repetitive arpeggios or long chords on the synthesizer. He even soloed slightly. But rhythms, percussion, sequencer patterns and synth pads were all completely pre-recorded. Only when Göttsching strapped on his Gibson SG did the music come to some kind of life that was in the moment. Göttsching is a deft guitarist with a light touch on the strings and expressive use of pitch bends and delays. Hearing him play guitar live made me wish he’d just shut down the computer and wail.  His concluding guitar solo to “Die Mulde” and his gentle riffing on “Midnight on Mars” revealed the possibilities of a truly live Manuel Göttsching concert.

I must admit that the last piece sucked me in with its cycling sequencer groove and Göttsching’s matching, understated arpeggiated guitar lead that seemed to chase its own tail in a hypnotic spiral. But I’ve heard this same effect done live with Steve Reich‘s “Music for 18 Musicians” and Terry Riley‘s tape loops, all performed in real time without pre-recorded sounds.  And Göttsching himself has done it with the live version of E2-E4 performed with the Zeitkratzer Ensemble. E2-E4And for all that, while  E2-E4 is lauded as some kind of seminal dance record, it is under-rated as a masterpiece of minimalist composition and cyclical design.

Manual Göttsching has made important music that still sounds fresh every time I hear it. The process works on a recording, but a live performance is a different beast.   Nevertheless, most of the audience seemed thrilled at the opportunity to hear a carbon copy that was often like an actor playing his role live while the other characters were on film.   Actually, that’s an interesting concept.  Someone must have done that already.

 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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