Swans is not a band I'm familiar with, for some reasons I missed them all these last three decades - maybe because for me post-punk was mostly British, and no wave was more on the side of free-jazz or contemporary music…
Anyway, some (younger) musicians I'm playing with strongly advised me to listen to Swans and to go to their concert last friday, and they were right! It was an intense and inspirational concert, and probably a landmark in my life as a musician and music lover. Their unique combination of minimalism and maximalism, fueled by rock energy but ruled by contemporary music strategies, allows them to break the boundaries of their art as much as the emotional ones of their audience!
Fronted and powered by guitars (ES-335 Lucille for Michael Gira and telecaster for Norman Westberg - not the guitars you'd expect for such a noisy act), Swans' rich sound owes a lot to the lap steel of Christop Hahn that creates beautiful distorted textures and the percussions of Thor Harris (gong, tubular bells, vibraphone, cymbals…) - who also played trombone, clarinet and what seemed to be a homemade silicone string bass similar to an Ashbory bass, but that he also played with a bow, I have to learn more about that (actually it's a pity that the mix at the Arena Wien didn't do justice to Harris' presence and put the guitars really on top of everything). And of course Phil Puleo's powerful drumming is the bedrock of this musical architecture.
Since I didn't know their songs and didn't expect anything, I could really just dive into the music and let myself go in their repetitive patterns and thunder drones, carried by mere sonic bliss. My only reservation was that Swans is very brainy, with a kind of macho self-consciousness that prevents their music to become really emotional and reach the plasmatic creative chaos that would have really blown my mind - I don't know if this Viennese concert was not their best or if it's just what they are…
Music of the week: can't stop listening to David Bowie's new song - Sue (or in a season of crime) - his best work for decades in my opinion, finally at the level of his genius. I often think that for some great musicians, pop music is too restricted and after a few albums they should switch to more ambitious music - and Bowie should definitely move to opera now.
Unfortunately there won't be a full album in that vein, it will be one extra song on a greatest hits album, but one can hope that this song is the starting point of some chef-d'oeuvre to come.
More tracks from the past! Back in 2002 I collaborated with butoh dancer Oguri for the series of performances Chisel In. Label Even Stilte proposed me to record the soundtrack in a studio and released it in 2004. It's the only time I used a computer for live music - combined with electronics, mostly diverted guitar effects - and I didn't like it so much, it's a great tool to do studio music but I'm much happier now with my rudimentary analog machines. Originally there was also a part improvised on an Ashbory bass but I didn't record it.
Last week I was invited to perform with new improvisation band Trio Klaustroratio at Zuckerlfabrik, the atelier of Viennese visual artist Barbara Anna Husar. We played some unusual music - at least for me -, a kind of improvised ambient with slowly developing atonal repetitive patterns, with tints of folk and support of electronics. Put on top of that an enthusiast hostess and a cool and attentive audience and it was a pretty nice evening!
Last year I had to spend a few days at the hospital, and I was high on meds so I was in a writing and composing frenzy - though too confused to achieve anything… This song is the only coherent thing I made and a few weeks ago I finally mixed it and voilà!
Is it vain to have a personal guitar blog - one more guitar blog? Probably...
But when I started to pay more and more attention to my guitars - lifetime companions and much more than mere working tools -, I've been quite happy to gather information on the net, on blogs, forums, fan sites, etc... So maybe some people will benefit in a way or another from this one.
And maybe also one day someone will see and appreciate my design work and ask me to design guitars for his project or his company - feel free to contact me if you're interested!
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A sunburst Stratocaster walks into a bar, orders a beer and takes a stool next to a hot-looking Les Paul Goldtop, who's sipping an umbrella drink. The Strat leers at the Les Paul for several minutes and then says, "Hey, that's some set of humbuckers you got on you, darlin'."
"You're not getting any feedback off of me with a pickup line like that," the Goldtop says indignantly.