Ukraine - Full Moon 133 - 07/30/07
Most acoustic-guitar music sends me to sleep. Perhaps I'm not trying hard enough, but I rarely go beyond Nick Drake and John Fahey. I think I've been to too many hippie festivals where everyone is carrying a battered six-string. Then, along come two releases that shake up my expectations of what is possible with an acoustic guitar.
Erdem Helvacioglu's Altered Realities arrived this morning all the way from Istanbul, Turkey. Using just an acoustic guitar and live electronics, Helvacioglu creates shimmering, glistening soundworlds, recorded in real time to DAT with no overdubs. This fact alone makes the resonant beauty of this music all the more remakable. And like many artists for whom English is not a first language, Helvacioglu manages to tease delicious new juxtapositions out of his song titles; "Dreaming on a Blind Saddle" and "Pearl Border on a Dune" are two of the most evocative I've heard in a while.
The sound of the acoustic guitar forms the core of each piece, and then modulated reflections of the original sound transform around it. The most straightforward example of Helvacioglu's technique can be found in the delightful "Frozen Resophonic", where the pitchshifted guitar traces a wobbly melody amid a bright halo of reverb. For the most part the manipulations multiply the resonant qualities of the guitar, emphasising the simple beauty of the melodic lines. Then, at times, the prettiness is overwhelmed by dissonant swarms of tone or ominous tremolo swells. Wherever Helvacioglu takes the listener, it's always completely arresting and disarmingly beautiful.
Andrey Kiritchenko's Stuffed With/Out has been around for a while, but until recently I'd never really given it enough time to sink in. Now it's on frequent rotation and I'm beguiled by its eerie atmospheres. Less overtly pretty than Helvacioglu's album, Stuffed With/Out is a more deeply shadowed soundscape, moist, smeared and pulsing with life. This is reflected in the references to animals in the song titles, suggesting a life beyond the prosaic; "Time Travel Of A Snail", "For Behemoth Who Was Afraid Of Darkness" and "That Puppy Likes His Solitude" are my favourites, but each is uniquely evocative.
Kiritchenko's manipulations of sound seem to surge forward in waves, crowding out the recognisable tones and steering the listener into an unfamiliar landscape of tangled drones. Then the storm subsides, as on "November Comes And Squirrel Falls In Love", leaving the naked sound of the acoustic guitar to resonate anew. Kiritchenko's attention to detail is staggering, and although it can take some time to negotiate through this album without feeling too alienated, the rewards are bountiful.
I recommend these releases very highly to anyone interested in immersive instrumental music with a strong character and atmosphere. Both albums take a giant step beyond what most 'post-rock' bands achieve - and just with an acoustic guitar and electronics.
Copyright © 2007 Tim Clarke