It is hard to separate my review of this movie from my relationship with Bill Frisell. I first saw him play when I went to see Percy Jones’ Stone Tiger at the Bitter End in NYC. I loved Jones’ unique bass work with Brand X and was curious to see what he was up to. The great Dougie Bowne (Lounge Lizards, Iggy Pop) was on drums. The guitarist was some guy with an early Roland GR-300 synth guitar whose playing, both on synth and standard guitar, was like nothing I had ever heard. Alternately lyrical and jagged, his Thelonious Monk-like flights of invention were like Monk only in that they were completely personal and otherworldly. Not since seeing Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck in the Sixties had I witnessed someone who seemed to totally reinvent the instrument in their own image.
I saw this at a NAMM recently and it looked interesting but was vaporware at the time. Also, it required wearing an unwieldy contraption on your foot. Since then the folks at Chroma Coda have made some changes to the Poly Expressive concept that makes it more attractive (getting rid of the footwear, for starters). They have also launched a Kickstarter campaign. What do we think?
As the sole contributor to Guitar Moderne’s content, posts naturally reflect my musical tastes. You may have noticed these tastes do not normally run toward heavier or highly technical styles like Metal or Prog. Still, I have been peripherally aware of Animals As Leaders for some time. It took Premier Guitar’s Rig Rundown with the band to make me realize they were prime Guitar Moderne candidates. Eight- and sometimes nine-string guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, along with drummer Matt Garstka are performing music that stems from Metal and Prog, but also embraces Jazz, Fusion, Math Rock, Classical, and Ambient as influences. Their genre combining alone would make them modern, but Abasi’s new signature Ibanez guitar also appears like something sent back from the future, combined with Reyes embrace of amp modeling for live work makes them a band that is pushing the art of guitar forward. Anyone interested in where the instrument might go, need to know about these pioneers. I hope to have an interview with Abasi posted in the New Year.
There is a wonderful world of effects out there, but maximizing their usefulness often requires modifying parameters on the fly—think Whammy pedal, or runaway delay feedback. Unfortunately, modifying parameters, and even engaging or switching off effects, tethers you to the pedal in a way that can hamper your visual performance.
There have been solutions: In 2014, Livid came out with Guitar Wing, which I covered in Guitar Moderne. It allows control of MIDI effects parameters right from the face of the guitar, unchained from pedals and standard hardware controllers. Source Audio’s Hot Hand, covered here, also permits free-ranging parameter control, either through MIDI (using the Neuro Hub), or through an expression input on the pedal or switching device. The folks at GTC Sound Innovations have come up with yet another solution that debuted at NAMM a couple of years ago and I recently got to put it through its paces. First watch the GTC folks demo some classic effects.