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CD Feature/ Marco Oppedisano: "The Ominous Corner" & "Tesla at Coney Island"; Tom Carter: "Shots at Infinity 1 & 2"

img  Tobias

Despite its seemingly pervasive presence, our knowledge of the Guitar as a sound source is still highly limited. Even though the search for unknown chords, unplayed notes and undiscovered melodies may have officially ended, all around the planet artists are still tapping into its unexplored sonic potential, uncovering unheard noises and impenetrable textures from its innards with uninhibited enthusiasm. Their motivations are manifold. To some, its unique acoustics are at the heart of their approach. Take, for example, London-based Psychedelic Folk-Wizzard Sand Snowman, whose live shows consist of extended Solo Guitar concertos composed of his album's spell-binding themes. To others, such as Austrian Christian Fennesz, currently the scene's most broadly accepted spokesperson to the outside world, it is simply the ideal tactile medium to channel their emotions and musical ideals. It appears, however, that to all, the combination of direct physical contact between the performer and the instrument's tone-producing-elements as well as its capacity of timbrally replacing an entire orchestra when fed through an array of effect pedals is essential: A single Guitarist can create immersive sonic worlds in real time and on stage without having to water down his artistic vision.

Marco Oppedisano: Following down the roots
While the drone has been a key element in the experimental scene over the past years, a small but gradually growing niche of artists has used the benefits of technological progress to follow down the Guitar's roots in Rock and Classical Music to its 21st-century-consequences. Marco Oppedisano is one of them. Carefuly balancing composition and improvisation and focusing on complex, finely woven and intricately interrelated pieces, his oeuvre has  inherently lacked the conveyor belt growth cycles of some of his more prolific counterparts, which has unfortunately somewhat limited public awareness of his activities. But just underneath the medial radar, admiration from colleagues and insiders has resulted in him being included in „State of the Axe“, a compendium of legends and leaders, alongside Andy Summers, John McLaughlin, Lou Reed and Bill Frisell. And for all of its subtle nuances and progressive structural semantics, his tracks never lack that moment of adrenalin, the sensation of blood shooting to your head when hopefully humming amplifiers explode with waves of feedback.

This is most apparent on his latest full-length, „The Ominous Corner“, the follow-up to his distinctive debut „Electroacoustic Compositions for Electric Guitar“. With the exception of the poignant „tryptich“, all pieces here easily extend beyond the ten-minute mark, with the closing, four-part „Renewal“ suite, epically clocking in at 20. Within these time frames, however, Oppedisano neither rides the mantric pulsations of a single riff to the point of ecstasy nor does he traditionally “develop” his themes. Instead, he builds acoustic spaces which still contain hints at linear motion, but which are in reality shaped by the changing relations and correlations of the various elements inhabiting them. His compositions do not seem to start at the beginning, they appear to organically grow for-, back-, up-, down- and sidewards from a soft core of ideas and principles. There is no thing such as a reprise or repetition here, as everything is linked to everything in an intruging and yet completely unacademic way.

Rhythm plays an important part on the album, yet it never does so in a regular, propulsive way. Most of the time (as on opener „Cityscape“), it comprises of evolving sequences of distorted noises and frequencies, whose slightly irregular paths all but cancel out the typical groove-feeling. This sensation of things perpetually moving yet standing still at the same time gives Oppedisano a lot of freedom to fertilise his musical grounds with his skills as a virtuoso instrumentalist. It is almost endearing how his love of Hard Rock and axemanship shines through even in the most refined segments and how a ripping solo or a sudden lightning bolt of liquid Death Metal lines come seething through passages of peaceful Ambient drift. All the same, these constant fits of schizophrenia award „The Ominous Corner“ a quality most comparable releases could only dream of: A nervous, subcutaneous tension keeping you glued to your seat and wondering what's next at all times.

On „Tesla at Coney Island“, too, stylistic collisions were consciously part of the program from the outset. A collaboration with Arcane Device-mastermind David Lee Meyers, it sees Oppedisano's striking techniques integrated into a microscopically refined and infinitely detailed cosmos of myriads of orchestral samples, elastic drum computer beats and frightful Dark Ambient moods. Even though Meyers mastery at creating coherent textures within deeply layered tracks awards „Tesla“ a more discreet production when compared to Oppedisano's solo endeavours, it has by no means tamed the beast in him: „Fling Away the Shell“ could be an aural snapshot of him floating over the gaping mound of a black hole trying to cover Eddy van Halen's „Eruption“, his black leather jacket billowing out in all directions. On other occasions, however, his motives have been transformed into ghostly loops eerily shapeshifting without ever coming to rest. „Tesla at Coney Island“  is one of those albums which you'll want to listen to with all the lights down in the wee hours of the night – and which begs for a speedy continuation of this musical partnership.

Tom Carter: Slack-less and fluent gestures
In his activities as one half of Folk-affine experimental Charalambides, Tom Carter has also enjoyed and fostered the effects of collaborative creation. His solo oeuvre, which has been gaining recognition and momentum of lately, on the other hand, profits from his uncanny ability of connecting free-wheeling flow-of-consciousness-phrases into stunningly precise, slack-less and fluent gestures. Whether on stage or in his studio, the live feeling is essential to his music, with Carter letting go and exercising full control at the same time. There are absolutely no backup scenarios here and you can sense the risk of things unwinding, imploding or collapsing at every second. Especially so on „Shots at Infinity 2“, the Vinyl part of a recent two-disc release on Important Records, recorded in promptu in various basements. On both sides of the LP, Carter segues stylistically diverse (and sometimes even averse) segments within the blink of an eye, connecting concrete melodic passages with dreamy ambiances of textural drift. It is a breathtaking journey, not just because of the technical savvy and the timbral richness of the ride, but also for the fact that even though the album plays fair on its audience, it never looses its magic: You know what is happening, still you can't believe what you're hearing.

On a first listen, the accompanying CD „Shots of Infinity 1“ is simultaneously less spectacular and more accessible: „Sleepy Golden Storm“ is a heart-wrenching acoustic piece with classical implications, while „what we knew when we knew it“ majestically transcends its minimal means of thematic variations over a sustained fuzz pattern by means of time, persistence and melodic bliss. In the closing title „psyche kinein“, however, Carter manages to build an equally brittle and fragile introduction into an epic, gloriously bleeding and raw piece of cosmic psychedelia. It is a euphoric ending to an album which needs to be listened to in one go and without interruptions to be fully appreciated.

Despite these credentials, Carter is not pretending to be „the future“ of anything. His techniques are not „extended“, his effects never extraterrestrial, his sound thoroughly recognisable. Instead of macro-analysing which direction Guitar music should take in the 21st century, his interest is personal and seems to derive from the question what'd happen if one were to continue the last seconds of a Garage-Rock song, when the singer and the rest of the band have already left the stage, and to use them as the basis of a new composition. Because there are still so many possible endings to be explored, it doesn't look like he will run out of ideas any time soon. And even though he is not stumbling upon unknown chords, unplayed notes and undiscovered melodies in the process, his seemingly simple but incredibly intense statements are sure to increase our knowledge about the Guitar in many different ways.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Marco Oppedisano
Homepage: OKS Recordings of North America
Homepage: Tom Carter
Homepage: Important Records

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