Alan Sparhawk - "Solo Guitar"
(Silber Records 2006, silber049)
From Aural Innovations #34 (August 2006)
Solo Guitar is the first solo album from Alan Sparhawk of Low, recorded live in Duluth, Minnesota, using guitar loops and reverb. The album consists of several shorter pieces and a couple of lengthier stretch out tracks. The 13 minute "Sagrado Corazon de Jesu (second attempt)" is one of the longer tracks, starting off with a basic, almost Spanish inspired theme, with much care put into the expression and execution of each note. Slowly pulsating drones soon emerge and begin to wander along an ever winding path while Sparhawk continues to jam on the guitar and add layers of looped patterns. But the highlight of the set is what I'll call the "Freighter Suite" of tunes. It kicks off with the 18 minute "How a Freighter Comes into the Harbor", which begins with guitar notes that are spot on for a foghorn sound, creating the image of the freighter chugging slowly along. The entire piece is subtle and sparse, yet highly image inducing. I could easily close my eyes and imagine a foggy evening and the hero freighter slowly approaching the harbor. Things get a bit noisy in the last minutes and I started to worry that our hero freighter crashed into the dock or something. But then I saw that the next few tracks continue the story and learned that it's just a spell of bad weather prior to pulling into the harbor.
I enjoyed the reverb and drone laden atmosphere and soundscape sections of the album, though Sparhawk particularly impressed me on the Freighter tracks, creating vivid imagery and a variety of well crafted effects, all the while amply demonstrating how less can be so much more when in capable hands. And rounding out the set is a good fun cover of Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption".
For more information you can visit the Silber Records web site at: http://www.silbermedia.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz