Posts Tagged ‘Steve Gunn’

Portraits: Meg Baird

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Meg Baird is a singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence as part of storied psych-folk outfit Espers, a Philadelphia collective whose three full-lengths crystallized the sound of the more somber and sonically kaleidoscopic elements of the mid-aughts “Freak Folk” scene. Between Espers’ second and third records, Baird released Dear Companion, an understated but deeply affecting solo record consisting primarily of covers and traditional songs. Those who fell immediately under Meg’s spell had to wait an excruciating four years for the follow-up, Seasons on Earth, which arrived on Drag City this Fall. Some songs find Baird joined, variously, by Marc OrleansSteve Gunn, and Chris Forsyth on guitar. The focus on originals and the inclusion of other musicians expand the sound ever so slightly, though it’s still grounded in Meg’s signature playing style and voice. I spoke with Meg just before she played a show to celebrate the release at Brooklyn’s Union Pool.

VR: Your first solo LP, Dear Companion, was just your voice and guitar. What was the impetus to bring in additional players for this record?

Meg: It happened pretty organically. It was all people that I knew and it was like, “Oh, we should play together,” and then just following through. I didn’t know Marc [Orleans] too well at first but I’ve gotten to know him through D.Charles Speer & The Helix. Steve [Gunn], he actually lived in Philly, so I’ve known him for a long time.

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Event: Visitation Rites & Vibes Management Present: Barn Owl + Noveller + Gunn-Truscinski Duo + Universe

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

On Saturday, September 17th, Visitation Rites and Vibes Management present a night of deep moods and maximalist simplicity at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium. Witness a rare East Coast appearance by drone-driven San Francisco guitar duo Barn Owl after hearing the Branca and Chatham-inspired Noveller (New York’s Sarah Lipstate) loop a single guitar into the sound of a dozen. Former GHQ guitar slinger Steve Gunn brings his minutely colored, raga-inspired blues-folk to the stage with drummer John Truscinski of X.O.4. renown, and Los Angeles singer/songwriter Universe opens the night with a mystery backing band. Visit Facebook for more info.

noveller – glacial glow (album preview) by experimedia

Barn Owl: “Turiya”

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Gunn-Truskinski Duo: “B38”

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Universe: “The Center Of Information”

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Words: Emilie Friedlander

2010 MICRO-PIXEL-RITES CMJ SHOWCASE

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Presented by Microphone Memory Emotion, PIXELHORSE, and Visitation Rites

Sightings: Gunn-Truscinski Duo, “B38 Blues”

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Last year, Steve Gunn produced us a standout raga-folk record in Boerum Palace. That album was primarily a showcase for Gunn’s unaccompanied guitar, with a few memorable contributions on steel guitar from Marc Orleans. Now Gunn is back, this time recording with drummer John Truscinski, a later contributor to GHQ with Gunn and a member of improv trio X.O.4. with Bill Nace.

“B38 Blues” is one of three long tracks on their new LP Sand City (along with the brief closer “Outro”), showcasing their music at its most downbeat and ruminative. Truscinski’s percussive contributions are barely audible at first, like high-pitched background drones behind Gunn’s unfurling guitar passages. Dissonance begins to creep in as the song enters its second half, with Truscinski’s idiosyncratic percussion growing in volume as Gunn’s playing threatens to lose the plot. Just as it seems the song might collapse in on itself, both players pull back and Gunn’s playing slides into sharp focus. “B38 Blues” captures the appeal of the album at large, which feels both casual and tightly plotted. The offhand way in which Gunn and Truscinski build songs from a few gestures — the defining characteristic of Sand City, and the reason for its success -– can be put down to that oldest of musical virtues: chemistry.

Gunn-Truscinski Duo: “B38 Blues”

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Words: Max Burke

Sand City LP (+ download) is out November 2 on Three-Lobed

Underwater Visitations Episode #7: The Maids Episode

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

When I stumbled upon Maids at a one-off Upstairs CD-R show at Coco66 this Spring, I remember stopping dead in my tracks, covering my ears in pain, and being unable to stop mouthing the words, “Abandon All Hope All Ye Who Enter.” Behind a suffocating wall of smoke, the 2-man rhythm section of New Jersey’s Big Troubles could be seen down on the ground in matching child’s poses, bowing in deference before a projection of a giant floating head — not unlike the Wizard himself, pictured above. I could barely make out what type of gear they were using, but the squall they produced was so debilitatingly loud that I couldn’t help remembering the one time I saw Whitehouse play and actually experienced the sensation of my ear drums being stretched to the ripping point. Funny thing, is Maids sound like nothing like Whitehouse. As I learned when Sam Franklin (also of No Demons here) rolled up to Newtown radio last Sunday, they simply layer purring drones and lackadaisical pentatonic keyboard scales until the room gets so saturated with sound that you actually end up getting a little scared. Probably all the more so because they are clean-cut surburban dudes who play in indie rock bands and show up on stage with their shirts tucked in.

Underwater Visitations Episode #7: The Maids Episode
Download the entire episode here.

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Playlist after the jump.
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Reviews: Steve Gunn, Boerum Palace (Three-Lobed)

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

l_92bdc10105ad4cc1bf8eef4c7c12ac6dThe underground is currently experiencing a golden age of solo guitar activity. Although tragically overshadowed by the death of Jack Rose, 2009 was a watershed year for experimental and classically minded operators, including crucial releases from major players spanning the stylistic pantheon. Sir Richard Bishop, Tom Carter, Pete Nolan, Glenn Jones, and Mr. Rose himself (solo and with The Black Twig Pickers) were joined by debuts from the likes of Willie Lane (whose debut solo outing Known Quantity, released on his own Cord-Art Imprint, was one of the most slept-on releases of the year), and Steve Gunn.
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Sightings: Steve Gunn, “Mr. Franklin”

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

l_8a8674ea205a48db81d4a111ffeb8f22A dude picking on an acoustic guitar can be a truly terrifying thing. If you’ve even been to a college, you probably already know why. A strolling hippie with a six-string hanging off his or her patchouli and entitlement-scented backside can send whole innocent families into paroxysms of terror without even playing a note. Such is the fear of the threat. With his second solo long player, Boerum Palace, GHQ’s Steve Gunn calmly and discreetly joins the class of modern day John “Not Lawnmower Man” Fahey acolytes who say “No” to the hippie who just wants to get laid and “Yes” to the hippie who wants to backpack across Eurasfrica.
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August 1: Visitation Rites Website Launch Party w/Ducktails and Julian Lynch Double Record Release at Market Hotel in Brooklyn

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

On Saturday, August 1st at Market Hotel in Brooklyn, Visitation Rites will throw a real-space housewarming party for its new virtual home (www.visitation-rites.com) as Olde English Spelling Bee drops two new vinyl releases that we are just dying to hear: DucktailsLandscapes and Julian Lynch‘s Orange You Glad. Performances by Talibam! Hard Vibe Trio, Steve Gunn-Heidi Diehl Duo, Julian Lynch, and Behavior. Support your local millennial psychedelia!

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An Extremely Drastic Case of Déjà Vu: Karole Armitage and Rhys Chatham Revive Underground Dance Classic in NY

Monday, March 30th, 2009


People who view the New York No Wave scene as one of the last truly exciting chapters in the city’s cultural history can buy as many compilations and artist’s monographs as they like, but nothing beats an opportunity to time-travel. Earlier this month at The Kitchen, New Yorkers jumped at a chance to spend two hours back in the early ’80s — a time when drive-by shootings and burning cars were daily staples of downtown life, but also when a late-night walk down 19th street just might land you in the middle of a dialogue between a professional ballet dancer and an army of electric guitars. Think Punk!, an evening of music and physical performance by choreographer Karole Armitage, cast a younger generation of New York Noise-makers in a recreation of Drastic Classicism, an explosive collision of classical ballet and No Wave punk…

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Une soirée avec Tom Carter et GHQ: “Sit down, tune in, drop out”

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

GHQ_001À peine nos oreilles étaient-elles reposées des performances étourdissantes de Sunburned Hand of the Man et de Jackie-O Motherfucker au Festival Soy de l’automne dernier, que le son extatique de l’underground psychédélique américain était de retour à Nantes, vendredi 21 mars, avec Tom Carter et GHQ – cette fois, cependant, sous une figure plus paisible.

Vendredi 21 mars, Nantes. Le café Grimault, petit bar de style “saloon américain” du quai de Versailles, est plein à craquer bien avant 20 heures. Ce n’est pourtant qu’à 21 heures que Tom Carter (Austin, Texas) et deux membres du trio new-yorkais GHQ (Marcia Basset et Steve Gunn) se mettent à table et commencent à picorer leur salade en devisant, sourds au vacarme d’un public de plus en plus impatient. Le décalage de deux heures entre l’heure annoncée et l’entrée en scène de Carter donne le ton de la soirée – Carter et GHQ nous offrent une musique patiente, posée, une exaltation sonique accessible à ceux-là seuls qui sont prêts à s’asseoir, respirer, écouter et s’abandonner aux bienfaits d’un petit voyage hallucinatoire.

Hypnotique, oui. Répétitif, statique, minimal, non. L’affiche de la soirée organisée par l’association Yamoy, qui qualifie la musique de Tom Carter (Kranky) de “drone psyché”, est peut-être un peu réductrice. Loin de créer une musique fondée sur la répétition de notes statiques (de drones, au sens traditionnel du terme), le guitariste texan, véritable sorcier, brode une tapisserie riche de sons surnaturels et d’inflexions mélodiques fugitives. Sa démarche, basée sur l’improvisation, repose sur la superposition de sons mis en boucles, réverbérés et retardés – un procédé sans doute facilité par l’amas de pédales, mixeurs et hauts-parleurs qui repose à ses pieds.

Au cœur de la musique de Tom Carter gît une fascination pour les possibilités acoustiques de la guitare – non pas instrument unique, à voix unique, mais multitude de voix, toutes prêtes à être découvertes moyennant un peu de bricolage. Le champ sonore tendu, hypersensible créé par l’utilisation de nombreuses pédales et artifices électroniques lui permet d’expérimenter diverses techniques de jeu – à certains moments, il “joue” de sa guitare en ne battant qu’un doigt sur les cordes tout près du chevalet, à d’autres, en frappant le corps de son instrument avec sa main gauche ou, aux moments les plus calmes, en abandonnant sa main droite et en ne plaçant que ses doigts sur les frettes. Le résultat : une multitude de sons, du wah-wah au souffle d’un nourrisson, du violon chinois aux cloches. Une diversité si surprenante que l’auditeur ne peut s’empêcher de se demander si Christina Carter (sa collaboratrice de longue date au sein des détonants Charalambides) ne se cache pas quelque part dans les coulisses.

Loin d’être vaines, les explorations électroacoustiques de Carter enrichissent véritablement son discours mélodique. Son but est moins de nous montrer ce qu’il arrive à tirer de son instrument que ce qu’un son donné peut faire. Le résultat est un contrepoint hallucinatoire d’échos et de mélodies fugitives, une musique qui rebondit dans les coins de la pièce avant de se dissoudre dans l’air.

Suivent Marcia Basset et Steve Gunn de GHQ (Three Lobed), cette fois sans leur collaborateur Pete Nolan. Bassett (Double Leapords, Hototogisu, Zaimph), le visage caché par une abondante chevelure blonde, introduit un bourdon semblable à celui d’un râga sur un alto déglingué, pendant que Gunn (Magik Markers, Moongang) tire de sa guitare électro-acoustique quelques notes scintillantes. Ils sont new-yorkais, certes, mais leur musique est aussi éloignée de ce pays de métros, de lumières flamboyantes, de bodegas de 24 heures et de Dow Joneses que nous autres le sommes, ici, de ce côté de l’Atlantique – et peut-être plus encore. Pour reprendre le titre de leur dernier album, Crystal Healing (2007), leur musique s’insinue dans les deux pièces du café comme un encens médicinal entêtant, apportant avec lui les muscs et les fragrances de pays aussi lointains et sauvages que l’Extrême-Orient et le Sud profond, les Appalaches et la Perse.

Ici, comme dans la musique de Tom Carter, la réverbération et le delay règnent en maîtres absolus. L’instrumentation de GHQ (alto et guitare, guitare et guitare, guitare et voix) est faussement minimale ; la distorsion, procédé magique, démultiplie à l’infini leurs instruments. Basset, serrant fort son alto contre son torse, provoque un tremblement presque surnaturel du bois de son archet – en résulte un son indien, le son d’un sitar, non, d’une douzaine de sitars jouant simultanément. Ses motifs mélodiques cycliques, restreints à un nombre limité de notes (un des principes fondateurs du râga indien), évoquent l’Extrême-Orient, tandis que le picking de Gunn nous transporte dans un tout autre univers : John Fahey parcourant l’Orient, tissant les mélodies locales dans une ode au pays qu’il aime, et baissant son chapeau, en passant, à Sir Richard Bishop et à sa guitare espagnole.

Dans le jeu de Gunn, il y a un son que l’on ne peut appeler autrement qu’américain ; pas “américain” au sens de l’Amérique actuelle, mais “américain” au sens d’une Amérique d’autrefois, sauvage, fertile et rude. Et bien qu’on ne puisse saisir les histoires que Gunn raconte quand il attrape son micro, on entend, surgissant de sa voix, les fantômes des bluesmen d’avant-guerre. Magnifique.

Comme beaucoup d’autres artistes qui tombent sous la catégorie un peu pêle-mêle de “New Weird America”, Tom Carter et GHQ fournissent un remède maison à la vie occidentale moderne. Et même si l’on ne peut pas trop dire leur musique nous transporte, quand elle nous transporte, on peut être sûr que ce n’est pas ici. Oh non, pas ici.

Emilie Friedlander

Photos : Bill T Miller

Publié dans Fragil, mars 2008.