Guitars And Other Machines

Photo by Adrian WhartonNeil Campbell: classical guitar, electronics
Carlo Bowry: electric guitar, electronics
Gordon Ross: electronics, production
The Capstone Theatre
21st February 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Love it or hate it, there was a lot of it around this evening; minimalism that is. This half-full audience was up for an evening of repetition, thematic development, rhythmic and tonal change, melodic overlay and counterpoint. With over two hours of music, there was a lot up for grabs.

First up was a piece from one of the two doyens of the musical style that rescued classical music from the straitjacket of Second Viennese School serialism, Steve Reich. Electric Counterpoint(1987): I-III, here transposed over a period of four months for Campbell's live classical guitar playing melodic patterns that lock in the synchronised loops of his pre-recorded sessions on ten other guitars; all displayed on a large bifurcating video behind the soloist and ending with the competing time signatures and keys resolving in 12/8 and E minor.

Next, Reich's joined at the hip other half, Philip Glass. His Metamorphosis(1988):I-V saw Campbell accompanied on stage by Carlo Bowry of local band Muffin Men fame. Originally for piano the electronic guitar basically plays the right hand notes and the classical guitar those for left hand. As the lights shimmered of his glistening red instrument Bowry's synthetic reverb led a muted classical strumming. The hypnotising tremolo of Campbell's playing supported Bowery's overhand/underhand oxygen denying fingering; the whole invoking memories of Jack Hargreaves' caravan rolling into the distance from children's TV days, at the birth of minimalism itself. When it seemed it could not get any slower, it did, before Pat Metheny-like roundels of ethereal highs halted the hibernating trends. Finally, everyone was able to clap at the same time.

The second half started with a 'Carlo Loves Joey' moment - a bit like when Amy Winehouse asked if her dad was in the audience. This solo Bowery set was all Wizzards of Twiddly meets Darth Vader: The Girl With The Bright Orange Face - dystopian, garish recorded backed up guitar and female voice, fronted by a stretch of out of the box, other worldly, live guitar: then Campbell also had loads of back up as he played with himself in another solo piece for guitar and improvisatory electronics, before the finale.

For this, Emergence(2013): (I-III), he was joined by co-composer Gordon Ross on electronics, for a multi-layered live guitar and pre-recorded piece that evolved to a video backdrop.

Ross manipulated a chessboard of white keys, laptop and keyboard as the guitar joined in. Loops of cyclical lines of 10 beats and 12 beats respectfully departed before eventually synchronising. On the way a smoke filled screen and energetic light show saw the soloist equal the eerily electronic underwater like mouth-slapping noises, as the music speeded up and the hypothecated torpedoes of sound cascaded towards congruence.

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