Alex de Grassi and G.E. Stinson: Shortwave Postcard (2001)
Shortwave Postcard comes from two California musicians with experience in progressive music, but it also conveys a strange sense of other-worldliness. (Perhaps the title is the duo's way of expressing this concept.) Guitarists G.E. Stinson and Alex de Grassi join forces here for a series of 17 brief vignettes (only a couple over 5 minutes), each with its own atmospheric edge and a tidal ebb and flow. The first track sweeps forward with oscillating acoustic reverberations laid on top of floating, ethereal treated electronic sounds. (Based on the instrumentation, you know that Stinson is generating the textures while de Grassi handles the acoustic pulse. This pattern repeats itself later on.)
As the record progresses, it becomes clear that each piece grips its own identity, which is a remarkable feat for such a wide-ranging collaboration. Whether composed of scattered pointillistic thrusts or sweeping held notes, each tune remains coherent. That's the compositional edge of Shortwave Postcard : unmistakable and efficient. But the record also strikes a balance with improvisation, and the expression of ideas conceived in the moment provides a nice, satisfying degree of unpredictability.
And the element of surprise is what makes Shortwave Postcard such a striking success. Rather than falling into traps of genre and style, these tunes lope along through odd amalgamations of atmospheric electronics, blues, abstract free improvisation, Eastern mysticism, folk music, and the uncategorizable beyond. For listeners with a curious and open mind, it's hard to recommend this record highly enough. What a wonderful surprise to have discovered Shortwave Postcard.
Track Listing: Always Falling; Small Talk; Map of the Night; False Bottom; Heavy Lifting; While You Were Sleeping; Subway Incident; Shortwave Postcard; Behind the Sun; Robot Shiva; Demon Crossing; Signal Drift; Slanted Morning; Tin Can Necklace; Exposed Bottled Up; Some Have Departed.
Personnel: G.E. Stinson: electric 6 & 12 string, baritone, and bass guitars, implements; Alex de Grassi: acoustic 6 & 12 string, high-strung, and baritone guitars, paint brush.