I am heartened by how it gets harder and harder to pick the best of the year. It means that there are more and more great records of modern guitar being issued all the time. This year was made a little easier by the fact that veteran masters like David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Eivind Aarset all appeared on one or more records. The list is rounded out by younger players like Julian Lage, Max Kutner, and Anthony Pirog, as well as the introduction of new faces: Justus West, Rafiq Bhatia, and Igor Osypov.
When we posted on the Antares ATG 1, some readers thought it was a crutch for players who couldn’t tune their instruments. The always amazing Bill Walker demonstrates that it is, in fact, a crutch for lap steel players who don’t want to have to learn pedal steel. Kidding aside, his beautifully musical video points out the enormous potential and great sound of this cool device.
We profiled looper extraordinaire Bill Walker a couple of years ago. Here he is checking out the upcoming Paul Vo Wond sustainer.
2013 that is—ten records this year; many more were released but only these seemed essential. Keep in mind that these, listed in no particular order, merely represent the recordings released this year (ish) that I found myself returning to over the course of time.
In the spirit in which Guitar Moderne exists, I list them primarily to excite readers about checking them out. They by no means are meant to be an “objective” list of the “best” recordings of the year, but only the ones that I heard and personally responded to. They very much reflect my own taste and your list will undoubtedly vary. By all means chime in and let me know what you think I missed.
Looping has become a common tool in the artistic arsenal of many a modern guitarist. Often, a single loop is lathered with layers that, in the hands of a Dustin Wong, can become a riot of interlocking rhythm, recalling Phillip Glass. Alternately you have Noveller, whose mix of ambience and melody is as evocative as her hand stitched film work.
Then there is Bill Walker, whose rootsy loop work could easily be mistaken for an actual band performing. A mastery of the eight-track Looperlative LP-1—with its ability to record multiple loops and then subdivide, punch into, and reverse them—allows the California guitarist to avoid any hint of static repetition. Walker’s performances are marvels of spontaneous composition; though enhanced by seeing him construct them, their musical interest does not rely on it. The tunes speak for themselves, as is evident on his solo release, Sanctuary.
“Cass County Waltz” from Sanctuary