I once read a quote from Paul Klee, “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” I took it to mean that a true artist made you see in a new way, one that hadn’t occurred until you encountered their work. One aspect of David Toop’s artistry lies in writing about music and sound in a way that changes the way you hear. It is not an exaggeration to say that reading his books Haunted Weather and Ocean of Sound changed my life. I lived in New York City at the time and much of what I had heretofore heard as noise pollution became a symphony of sound. So, I was chuffed, as they say on David’s side of the pond, to be able to converse with him at length about music and sound.
A performer as well as a writer (see Below), Toop has shared the stage with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Thurston Moore. A lifelong guitarist, Toop’s latest recording, Apparition Paintings, combines his love of twang, his encyclopedic knowledge of sound art (a term he might not care for) and a wanton disregard for genre.
When I moved back to New York City from San Francisco in the late 90s, David Tronzo was playing often and, more likely than not, I was there. I watched with my jaw dropped as he played blistering, jazz-inflected lines on his vintage Silvertone—with a slide! Check out some of the videos here; it has to be seen to be believed. Then watch my interview with him where he explains his tuning, odd choices for slides, and how the end of The Marshall Plan has affected touring opportunities in Europe for American acts, and much more.
Vessel is the latest recording by über-modern guitarist Dan Phelps. GM has spoken to Phelps in the past about his more group-oriented projects like Modular, Arc, and Spirits Drifted, but Vessel is representative of the guitarist as he more often appears live: alone on stage with guitar, effects, laptop, guitar amp, and full range speaker system. Recorded as one 45 minute take, it incorporates techniques Phelps has described in earlier interviews and in some newer videos included here.
Much modern guitar focuses on atonality and noise. More rare is the forward thinking guitarist whose approach leans towards the seductive rather than the assaultive. Though fully capable of aggressive sonic forays, Charlie Rauh’s music lives largely in a contemplative realm. Echoes of Frisell-ian pastoralism can be heard, but Rauh resembles him only in a similar rootedness and a focus on beautiful tone—he is his own man.
One day I was reading Leo Abrahams’ blog when I turned to my wife and said, “I want this guy’s life.” He had been describing the week’s activities, which might include a session with Brian Eno, live gigs with the likes of Bryan Ferry and Marianne Faithful, a solo guitar gig performing tunes from his instrumental records Scene Memory and Honeytrap, composing film music for The Lovely Bones, arranging strings for Ed Harcourt, or producing an up and coming band like Frightened Rabbit. Recently, with little time for his own music, he has managed to cobble together an EP of six-songs, Zero Sum. Though not a “guitar” record per se, it is chock full of guitar generated tones that will prick up your ears. I have interviewed the British musican before, most recently for a piece on using a laptop in live performance. Here we get a glimpse of the man’s beginnings, influences, and gear.