Mike Black - "Go/No-Go"
From Aural Innovations #34 (August 2006)
Mike Black was involved in Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft courses for 16 years. One of the challenges these courses often posed to the musicians was to compose a piece for live performance, often with only a day's notice. Inspired by this, Black decided to pose his own challenge to himself: compose, record and release an album in just one month. The result is GO/NO-GO.
Now, hold on for a moment here. If you're expecting an album of Frippish guitar stylings, don't rush to order GO/NO-GO just yet. Black sets the guitar aside for these recordings (other than the utilization of some bass guitar), and instead relies on an armada of keyboards, synths, and soft synths to produce an electronic music opus in his home studio. Most of the music on GO/NO-GO was recorded live in the studio, using a lot of improvisation.
The result ends up in the late 70's, early 80's style of electronic music, the kind you heard after the experimental voyages of the Berlin school artists but before the techno-dance craze of the 90's. Think the electronic/symphonic style of Larry Fast aka Synergy (in fact, as I subsequently saw, Black does list Synergy as one of his primary influences on his MySpace site). While Black does use rhythmic sequences to propel his music forward, it's not the overall focus of his sound. The music is often built on a repetitive, mid-tempo drum-machine track often utilizing a two-chord pattern of bright synth sounds. It can be dark and symphonic, even atmospheric, but is not however, very spacey in nature. Over this, Black does some creative improvising with his lead instruments, which are usually synths, but also at times the bass guitar picks up the melodic line.
The album does tend to suffer a bit from a "rushed" sort of feel. I remember thinking the first time I listened to it, before I read the press release saying it had been recorded in a month, that the rhythms seemed a little simple and too repetitive. Admittedly, this does tend to be a criticism often shot at electronic music in general. To get something a little more complex, it definitely takes more time, something Black didn't have if he intended to achieve his goal.
All that being said, Black plays some fine leads, with a knack for interesting melodic riffs. And for the amount of time he had, he has created an impressive work. But one gets the sense that it could have been better with more time and attention to detail. Hopefully this is just a one-time challenge, and next time, Black will give himself more than a month so we can hear what he's really capable of creating.
For more info, visit: http://www.gonogomusic.com and http://www.myspace.com/mikeblackgonogo.
Or e-mail Mike Black at: MikeTeachr@aol.com or GoNoGomusic@aol.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald