Back in 1985 I sacrificed my first seven salaries to purchase – of all things – a Roland GR700 guitar synthesizer, real pro stuff at that time. Nowadays, a dog can’t be found willing to buy it way cheaper. The access to new extents of resonance represents a perennial goal of inquisitive guitarists – the non-purists, so to speak. And yet, the bulk of that experimentation has often been irrelevant in terms of imaginative perspicuity.
But Alan Courtis – he of Reynols renown – has probably realized one of the genuine wet dreams of any axe-grinding sonic researcher. In 2014, he spent a whole week (ending March 5, the day of this writer’s fiftieth birthday; talk about connections) feeding the signal of a Spirit to the circuits of the majestic Buchla 200, the modular synth that reigns at the celebrated EMS studios in Stockholm. The results of Courtis’s intuitions were also modified by a Digitech RP100, a Boss volume pedal and various computer constituents.
Very few sonorities of this double LP would instantly be associated to a regular electric guitar by an average ear. Exceptions do exist, though. The beginning of the second part, defined by a mini-guerrilla of distorted chordal jangling and uncontrollable low hums, comes to mind. However, the record’s prevailing character suggests an analog beast which absorbs, processes and responds to the human input according to an unfathomable self-determination. We’re not told how much control the Argentinean threw in beyond his hands; the inkling here is that the man-vs-machine dialogue was frequently oscillating between reciprocal respect and an out-and-out fighting.
The acoustic translation of the above considerations reads as follows: a heterogeneous organic mass of obstreperous waves, capable of subjugating the listener’s will into your-wish-is-your-command mode. Parts of this monster are quieter, occasionally droning, still explicit in violently wavering refractions; elsewhere, the qualities inherent to the textural gathering are conveyed via membrane-pressing buzzing, asymmetric pulse and spiky frequencies. In any case, the overall vibe is definitely closer to “momentous electroacoustics” than “noodling punk attempting to create a dwarf replica of Tod Dockstader”.
Seriously: this work is destined to encourage alternative kinds of investigative procedure. Consistent music showing gorgeous traits of vehemence, its spellbinding difficulties revealing an utterly spontaneous inventiveness.