Nice touch from Henry Kaiser, that of specifying on the cover of The Deep Unreal that loops and overdubs are not featured; “just long delays”. Indeed, this solo CD incorporates so many entangled layers, melodic twists and awesome tones that a poor figure for the reviewer was warranted, had he not read that small print.
Having to challenge almost 80 minutes of unaccompanied guitar improvisation, the incompetent could have hypothesized a tedious session of shopworn tricks and “let’s show what this new piece of gear can do” vacuousness. But for those used to treating the ears with stuff like Aloha and Marrying For Money since post-adolescence, there was no distress. Rarely the Californian maverick fails to deliver in terms of quirky phraseology coupled with a total command of pitch emission. Accordingly, this is his finest recent outing among what I’ve been able to listen to. All the man’s influences are detectable; none prevails, they all sing together – via knowledgeable fingers on six strings – in a uniquely heartwarming manner of expression.
The extended tracks (three, ranging from 22+ to 25+ minutes) reveal Kaiser at his galvanizing best under several points of view. Abstract studies replete with glowing chords and elegiac arpeggios; dissonant lines drawn over textural conglomerations apparently born from a hundred instruments; wayward blues; perennially transfigured timbres fusing extreme harshness with sweeter partials. There is something for every inquisitive guitarist willing to learn first, and not simply imitate later. The final chapter is a brief acoustic jewel that brought us back memories of Kaiser’s terrific rendition of “Special Rider Blues” (Skip James, anyone?) on Who Needs Enemies? (with Fred Frith, also on Metalanguage). A touching closure, definitely.
What I truly love in this album is how, occasionally and for a few instants, the unescorted protagonist decides to let the resonant waves ebb, flow and wash minus the need of adding anything. Still, when that “anything” is necessarily included, there’s no way to locate a wrong move. The balance of positive energy, timbral appropriateness and controlled turmoil remains admirable throughout; time elapses without us realizing. After the record ended, the immediate reaction was grabbing one of my own axes and tour its neck with a thoroughly cleansed mind. This lasted for mere moments, though, before placing the wooden spouse on the sofa and pushing “play” again.