CD Reviews

Tuesday 1st June

June 2, 2010

FRONTonlyThe next few days are going to be pretty tough on me, some very heavy workloads in the dayjob that will see me working right through the night on a couple of occasions and some demanding family stuff squeezed in there as well. All being well I will be able to keep writing reviews here, but just a warning in advance I am going to be pushed for time and energy between now and Sunday. Its late here now. I am staying up for as long as possible to prepare myself for a through the night shift at work tomorrow. If my writing here tails off towards the end of this post then maybe I’ll have fallen asleep…

This evening I have been listening to one of three CDs kindly sent to me by the Swedish guitarist Christian Munthe self-released on his *For*Sake label. The disc I have been spinning is a CDr wrapped in a home printed sleeve that makes use of what must be the worst typeface I have seen in a good few months, but I’m here to write about the music not the sleeve art…

The disc is called 12 Songs, and features a round dozen numerically titled solo improvisations for acoustic guitar. All are quite brief with the longest still coming up short of five minutes in length. The first thing that hits you when the album begins, and it hits you very hard, is the stylistic similarity to Derek Bailey’s later acoustic playing. While I would never have mistaken the CD for something of Derek’s, its not that close, the influence is clearly there. On the majority of the tracks Munthe seems to work hard to squeeze as many sounds in as possible, so they tumble and pour from his guitar as fast as his fingers will allow. So we get a stream of often seemingly disconnected notes and plucks and scrabbles flying forth, and on some of the tracks, such as Song no.6 the sensation is quite exhausting, particularly as the guitar has been recorded up very close as the sounds seem to almost attack you after a while. Headphone listening, as I have been doing for the last couple of spins tonight have been quite demanding. Relief comes straight after though, as Song No.7 seems to leave the strings alone completely (its the only one of the twelve pieces here to do this) and instead the body of the instrument is scraped, rubbed and frantically flailed at with some kind of unidentified object while being captured by an attached pick-up of some kind. This piece is nice, something of a calmer pool in the midst of the string attacks.

In many ways there is something very simple and charming about this music that sits very well with the Bailey comparison. Without stating the obvious, this really is just Munthe and his instrument very loose and free in the moment, riffing in a very fluid manner. he does choose particular styles and shapes for each piece however, and often they veer some way from Bailey, so this is clearly Munthe’s voice speaking. Perhaps, in a similar way to how anyone playing a piano very slowly reminds me of Feldman anyone playing an acoustic guitar fast reminds me of Bailey, which is undoubtably unfair, but I can’t really help it. My favourite track here, perhaps unsurprisingly is the one that is the slowest and more spacious; Song no.11. While not exactly Taku Sugimoto this piece is allowed to breathe far more than the other tracks are, and if there is one thing I would have preferred from the disc overall it is a little more negative space to frame the sounds within. This piece feels like a Franz Kline painting is a room full of Jackson Pollocks…

Its hard to think of much more to say here about this music. Its one for acoustic guitar fans, one for those that like their improv busy and expressively talkative. Its not bad at all either, a sound enough listen with a few very nice moments scattered throughout. Maybe if I want to hear a CD or solo acoustic guitar improv in the future I would be looking on the M shelf for it first, but that is not to say that there isn’t a good deal to offer here. One of the other CDrs Christian sent is a double disc set of duo improvisations, which I am very much looking forward to playing, as I suspect with a little more room added for others’ inputs Munthe’s guitar work could be very nice indeed.

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