Monday, May 18, 2009
Christopher Riggs - I Feel So Strong. I Feel I Could Punch a Hole in a Fucking Wall. (Bug Incision Records CD-R)
Just in from Brainwashed:
Considering the title, it appears guitarist Christopher Riggs has created a pretty big hole. Among a slew of young experimental musicians whose output often sees highly limited pressings, Riggs, an Oberlin Conservatory graduate, has been making his mark in groups such as Trauma (with Ben Hall and Hans Buetow) and a trio with Hall and Joe Morris. His solo output on numerous labels, including his own Holy Cheever Church Records, has been outstanding as well however, often pushing the brink of his instrument's assumed capacity beyond recognition.
Likely at once Riggs' sparest and most difficult outing, this disc presents five untitled tracks of solo electric guitar improvisations marked by spacious, often nearly imperceptible treatments of the guitar through techniques far beyond usual strum and pick tactics. The opening, for example, is a seven-plus minute piece whose entire sonic output is stretched out among the time period with distinct and sudden blurts of scrape and grate that dissipate back into the white silence as quickly as they appear. Think John Cage meets Derek Bailey, or Alan Licht covering Morton Feldman.
From the beginning then, there is an emphasis on the spaces between the sounds as much as the sounds themselves, or, perhaps better put in this context, the holes are as numerous as the punches making them. Comparatively the second track, opening with a chalk on metal screeching, is downright loud, flitting about between what sounds like tinkling glasses and straws sucking caramel. Nary a recognizable guitar tone rears its head.
The same can be said throughout. The buzzing sound of a bug imitating a dentist drill lurches throughout the third track, as a grating tone pitch shifts back and forth beneath, eventually making its way to the head and lodging itself there, left to brew menacingly before breathy bowed drones wind and crack themselves into a heaping alien landscape. This is some extremely advanced and entirely organic improvisation that truly manages to carve out new approaches to sound-as-sound.
Perhaps most harrowing is the fourth track which, following the previous two, consists of 15 minutes of muffled stutters buried beneath vast crevices of emptiness. Christopher is willing to go as long as he needs to in order to make every sound count, and the result is as spare as they come. Sounds come and go throughout, but they are far from the norm. The closing fifth track sounds like a tea kettle whistle in a cavern, with static white noise writhing below the chirping bowed high end before bending like a rubber band into a frenetic release of tension whose quick cut-off leaves the album's end as mysterious as its beginning.
Christopher Riggs is a guy who deserves some attention. Anyone who has heard his playing with Hall and Morris knows that the guy has chops, but it is this stuff that really pushes the boundaries. Seemingly coming from a stance aligned more with the classically-based sound experimentalists of the twentieth century than the noise practitioners he often plays with, Riggs nevertheless walks the borders with aplomb, at once translating both sides into one another until any cultural delineation disappears and the sounds are left to do as they will. Beautiful, original and fully realized, this is work well worth grabbing before its 50 copies are gone forever.