Leo Abrahams has led what is possibly the ideal modern guitarist’s life: touring Russia performing improvised solo shows through a laptop; playing with Brian Eno AND Bryan Ferry, not to mention Imogen Heap, Jarvis Cocker, and Paul Simon; as well as co-writing or arranging a variety of film soundtracks, including Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Steve McQueen’s Hunger. Last year he was part of two terrific recorded projects, Visitations, a series of guitar duets with Shahzad Ismaily; and Krononaut (listen to tracks below), a record of improvisations with drummer Martin France, bassists Tim Harries and Shahzad Ismaily, Arve Henriksen on trumpet, and Matana Roberts on saxophone. For more background I recommend our first interview here, and our later conversation here .
The pedal world is rife with cryptic stompbox names that give no clue to what the pedal is or does. While the name on EarthQuaker’s new pedal, Astral Destiny, doesn’t specifically mention that it is a reverb, it’s description “An Octal Octave Reverberation Odyssey” does accurately represent the feelings this device will evoke: a literally awe inspiring trip through the cosmos. There are plenty of pedals with “shimmer” functions out there, but with its octave up and down options, and its stretch feature, which doubles the reverb length while adding an adjustable pitch bending effect, Astral Destiny carves out its own place in the firmament. A must for ambience lovers, it is also just a great sounding reverb. Thankfully it allows presets, as you are quite likely to find at least eight sounds you won’t want to lose. (See “more” for specs).
If you are like me, you could stare covetously at the beautiful Island Instruments 12-string he is playing for the whole 20 minutes. But while doing so, Phelps gives great insight into his process when making loops with his desktop system.
Today is the birthday of Adrian Belew who, for years, has managed to make complex music (Zappa, King Crimson, his own) seem easy and fun. Here are some great sounding, relatively recent, beautifully shot videos of his latest band. The man keeps growing and evolving, while magically making digital guitar sounds that are warm and human.
If anyone were to be into pedals it would be the modern guitarist. Granted there are a few who play only acoustic, and even fewer who exclusively play plugged straight into the amplifier, but the majority of modern guitarists are to some extent looking to find new sounds in the electric realm and pedals help them go there. The firmament of modern guitar heaven is filled with gods who use a plethora of stompboxes in their quest for sonic freshness. Adrian Belew, Nels Cline, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, David Torn, Nick Reinhardt, and others employ effect pedals as an essential part of their artistry.
For them, and guitarists of all stripes, this year has seen the release of, not one, but two books (actually three) devoted to these playable, collectable, fetish-encouraging devices.