Alan Courtis – “Unstringed Guitar & Cymbals”

I love finding artists who can find new ways to squeeze a few more interesting sounds from their instruments, especially when the results are able to stand in their own right. With the Blossoming Noise release of “Unstringed Guitar & Cymbals,” former Reynols member Alan Courtis unearths a wellspring of sound possibilities both novel and surprising.

Through three long tracks, each titled for a common spice found in curry, Courtis thoroughly explores the aural limits of a stringless (and judging from the digipack photos, rather broken) hollow-body guitar. Processing is employed throughout, resulting in far more than percussive noises– Courtis finds waterfalls of humming and squealing, carnival organs, windchimes, and blown-glass swan calls within this tortured axe. “Coriandro” finds Courtis at the center of a swarm of surreal birdcall noises, alternately calling to them with water gong and nose flute sounds… obviously, this is some wild stuff.

Of course, I’m thrilled at the possibilities Courtis presents. As with so many of my favorite albums of his, a democratic and egalitarian approach shines forth– anyone may not be as talented at generating or arranging these sounds, but they’re definitely within reach of many potential sound-sculptors no matter how indigent. Furthermore, as someone who spent a lot of time playing guitars, its fascinating to hear so many new voices tumble from the instrument.

Naturally, the guitar is not the only recipient of Courtis’s attention, or the title of this disc might be somewhat different. Making excellent use of a cymbal’s lengthy release, Courtis fashions layers of shimmering washes, a perfect environment for “Cardamomo’s” rising and falling guitar clarion to inhabit. It’s a much fuller sound than I would have expected, which is also a pleasant surprise.

Overall, this is a very good disc, and might go down well with those who enjoy the explorations of Derek Bailey, Ferran Fages, or even Boris. I’m not exaggerating– that sort of range is easily represented here. Blossoming Noise generally has very good quality production for their discs, which is fully evident here. Definitely, “Unstringed Guitar & Cymbals” is one I recommend.

“Unstringed Guitar & Cymbals” is available from Blossoming Noise as release “bn034″.

Don’t believe DaveX? Here’s someone else’s review!

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2 Responses to “Alan Courtis – “Unstringed Guitar & Cymbals””

  1. Justin Snow Says:

    I love your reviews of stuff like this. Recontextualizing and repurposing various objects (traditional instruments included) to make music is always interesting to hear, if not always especially pleasing to the ear. Another case where I’m glad the record holds up as good music in addition to experimentation.

  2. guruyo Says:

    como puedo conseguir este disco en Buenos Aires?

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