Rossbin RS 009

Perpetual Joseph
Rectangle REC AL 2

More entries in the quest to find something fresh to play with the electric guitar finds two European musicians pursuing far different strategies. Portuguese guitarist Manuel Mota propels his solid body electric guitar through different variations of quietude, while Frenchman Noël Akchoté manipulates his amplifier as much as his strings.

Lisbon-based Mota, born in 1970, plays regularly with locals bassist Margarida Garcia and trumpeter Sei Miguel; while Paris resident Akchoté, two years older, has recorded with fellow guitarist Derek Bailey, played in the band The Recyclers and with a variety of other musicians including saxophonists Evan Parker and Sam Rivers.

Interestingly enough, Bailey has expressed his admiration for what he calls Mota’s “really interesting, quite radical” style. One can see why. On LEOPARDO, playing finger-style, Mota goes beyond Bailey-like explorations to almost pure microtonalism.

Closely miked, during the course of the nine tracks here, it appears that he’ll exert pressure merely with his fingertips and spend more time behind the bridge and near the sound holes than going full frontal on the strings. With sporadic, echoing, banjo-like tones, the sluice of fingers along his strings and the suggestion of bottleneck, sounds produced could come from a folk guitarist’s practice session. But considering that tones keep rolling along throughout each piece, and there is no resolution, negates that idea.

Sporadically, he’ll slide from one string to another without pausing or speed up and slow down creating duple ringing notes as if he was finessing two different guitars. Very occasionally, if his cuticles aren’t buried in the fret guard or near the pegs, he’ll come up with sharp, short tunelets. By the end, proceedings get sharper and spikier as he auditions a series of notes and tones, then snaps them off, exercising his amplifier using the electronic impulses and crackles as his sound base.

With a history encompassing noise bands as well as improv, Akchoté centres his achievement on his peripherals as much as his instrument. The third part of the Joseph Trilogy, PERPETUAL JOSEPH makes its points over the course of four long tracks. Often as stentorian as Mota’s CD is silent, Akchoté deals with intermittent amp buzzes and the oscillation of sound waves. Moving from maximum to minimum, he maneuvers the frequencies every which way. In fact, there are times the output more resembles a soprano saxophone tone or radio frequencies than anything arising from six strings. Among the intermittent drones his palm and finger pressure sporadically create two separate sounds, the undertone of a darker strum wiggling beneath the higher-pitched radio wave from the amp.

Like the game plan on Mota’s disc, Akchoté’s final track is also his longest. Here the amplification gets even more clamorous and varied and you begin to hear the overtones on top of the overtones. It’s a Cagean reversal, proving that pure noise no more exists than does pure silence. Soon, the oscillation is altered with strums and flat picking as the output takes on the siren-like properties of a circular saw or an air raid siren, often with a secondary drone joining, then superseding the first. Was it Andy Warhol who talked about the mechanized beauty in monotony? Well, that same near-automated rhythmic splendor is showcased here. Captivating, a singular on-off pulse makes up the coda, starting and stopping, then starting and stopping until the very end.

Traditionalists may not even recognize guitar sounds in these recorded equations. Yet if music history is going to evolve, electric guitar experiments like these must be taken into account.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Leopardo: 1. 01.43 2. 03.26 3.03.04 4. 05.23 5. 02.35 6. 04.57 7. 04.38 8. 04.16 9. 11.08

Personnel: Leopardo: Manuel Mota (solid body electric guitar)

Track Listing: Joseph: 1. Plage 17 2. Plage 18 3. Plage 19 4. Plage 20

Personnel: Joseph: Noël Akchoté (electric guitar, amplifier)