Naked Guitars

Three recent six string-based releases that sound meaningful in their paucity of means and might well constitute a manifesto against sterile virtuosity. All require silence, concentration and the will of not caring about small errors and imperfections. Better still, they need them to reveal different forms of raw beauty.

FERRAN FAGES – Al Voltant D’Un Paral.lel

On the Canadian label Etude, the third collection of odes to solipsism by the ever-profound man from Barcelona is at the same time intelligible and ominous in an almost scary way. Fages, for starters, is not afraid of being observed: he plays with so-called interior fortitude, not anxious to cover mistakes or technical limitations and – exactly for that – capable of locating sweet spots on the fretboard where adjacent overtones and jangling buzzes generate uneasy resonances that don’t need authorizations to affirm a convention-damaging importance. These figurations aren’t to be found in any book, if you see what I mean, and their significance becomes deeper for that. Furthermore, Fages all but avoids pedestrian progressions and formulas (yes, even improvisers have secret tricks) and lets his fingers dictate the instantaneous path to follow, sometimes failing to discover “beauty” – something that should never be a necessity, especially in music – while finding a better compatibility with the essence of solo guitar playing, which ideally should resemble an intimate prayer. A record that doesn’t cease to transmit a sense of “calm distress”, confirming the artist’s will of non-adapting his personal research to the sugary indulgences of styles or genres.

LOREN CONNORS & JIM O’ROURKE – Two Nice Catholic Boys

This outing contains extract from 1997 live dates, and is published by Family Vineyard. Your reviewer was already a certified O’Rourke fan way before the music world at large even knew of him; much less of Connors (whose art is highly regarded anyway – and there’s an album that I really do love, the fascinating As Roses Bow on this same label). That said, after reading raving write-ups more or less everywhere I set myself to listen to this CD with great anticipations and, let me tell you, a degree of caution (never trust reviews, etc. – except mine of course, heh heh).The work does possess an enthralling crust of grumpiness when the protagonists go full-distortion, caring zilch about intonation, finesse and other amenities. A growling accumulation, quite exciting at consistent volume, that might cause some trouble even with tolerant relatives. Still, when the men switch off those pedals, starting to clean the air a bit with juxtapositions of elegiac arpeggios and delightful single notes that cut like a sharp blade in the few remaining butter portions of our soul, that’s all for the better. The two fundamental facets of these performances are essentially here, without further variations. Noise and poetry indeed – glowing in parts, not that astounding in others. But the release is certainly a legitimate one: an important relic from these musicians’ past, therefore a keeper.

RED FAVORITE – Red Favorite

Originally released in a very limited edition CD on the Spirit Of Orr label, this cycle by Jeremi Pisani aka Red Favorite is now reissued in vinyl by Christoph Heemann’s Streamline. In a couple of minutes you’ll discover that this is one of those items that might leave completely unconcerned, or alternatively stimulate every little bone of an old skeleton to regeneration. Essentially, a John Fahey-influenced kind of dragged-around fingerpicking is the basis of Pisani’s tracks, which often get subsequently manipulated with some sort of studio treatment that ends in making the whole sound cheaper, in all probability a desired effect. The core of these performances is imbued with drugged trance, the blurred, whispered, muttered vocals an accompaniment to the instrumental excursions and not vice versa (hey, shouldn’t acoustic guitar underline “politically weighty” lyrics after all? Well, here you can forget about it). The positive aspect is that this material is not designed to aggravate our mood: it just stays there, like a good dog always follows a drunkard. And, in moments of particular perceptiveness, certain pieces could even reveal a world of visions that may result a little uncooked, yet truer to the ears than a lot of refined imitations. Strange and nice in its own special way.

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