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Michael Pisaro, Cristián Alvear: Melody, Silence

John Eyles By

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The irresistible rise of Buffalo-born composer and guitarist Michael Pisaro has been an ongoing phenomenon since the turn of the millennium. Initially, his recordings and scores were released on Edition Wandelweiser, fitting as he is a significant member of the Wandelweiser group. Gradually, like-minded labels such as Another Timbre, Cathnor, Compost & Height and Erstwhile also began issuing Pisaro recordings. More recently, his own Gravity Wave label has been issuing the lion's share of his music, culminating in the release of the highly-praised three-disc box set Continuum Unbound (Gravity Wave, 2014).

Now, Potlatch joins that distinguished list of labels with Melody, Silence, a collection of materials for solo guitarist, written by Pisaro in 2011, here realised by Chilean guitarist Cristián Alvear in a studio recording made in Santiago, Chile, on July 1st 2014. A sleeve note informs us that there are up to twelve fragments (or pieces) which can be played in any order and allow for various transformations, cuts, extensions and silences. So each guitarist makes their own version. As a guitarist, Alvear has focussed in particular on minimalism and Wandelweiser works. (On the YouTube clip below, see his version of Jürg Frey's "Relikt.") He developed his own version of "Melody, Silence" over several months in 2014.

Alvear's version certainly took full advantage of the opportunities to include silences; he repeatedly pauses for prolonged periods, sometimes to allow the listener to fully savour a decaying note uninterrupted. In addition, on one occasion for about nine minutes, the sounds of plucked guitar give way to a sustained low level droning tone—on first listening, long enough to prompt a technical check of one's equipment. After such an interval, the much-anticipated re-entry of the guitar comes as a welcome relief. Therein lies one of the great pleasures of this music, that of delayed gratification wherein the listener is made to anticipate the arrival of notes and so appreciate them all the more for having had to wait. As so often with Pisaro's music, it is a model of control and taste, with nothing liable to surprise, shock or jolt the listener. Time and again, when its forty-six minutes are done, the only sensible option seems to be to repeat the experience. Yes, beautiful stuff.

This release will surely enhance the reputations of Alvear, Pisaro and Potlatch itself. It is early days yet, but be prepared to watch it appear like a rash across music writers' best-of-2015 lists.

Track Listing: Melody, Silence.

Personnel: Cristián Alvear: guitar

Title: Melody, Silence | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Potlatch Records

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