757

Alex Machacek: [sic]

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
There's been considerable hype surrounding this release by Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, so let's dispense with that right away: it's all true. While there are innumerable great guitarists, it's rare for one to emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, with an album this conceptually well-formed.

Machacek is recognized as a virtuoso who combines the legato phrasing of Allan Holdsworth with the rockier edge of Mike Keneally and the knotty ideation of Frank Zappa. But despite his staggering technical ability and a complex compositional approach that draws as much from new music as jazz, Machacek's playing never approaches the excesses often attributed to fusion. And while fusion is where most people will pigeonhole Machacek, one listen to [sic] and it becomes clear that this is only one part of a much larger equation.

That's not to say Machacek doesn't deliver some mind-warping shredding, as he does during the second half of "Indian Girl [Meets Austrian Boy]," featuring his wife, Sumitra Nanjundan, on vocals. But his approach is so advanced that it'll have even the most adept guitarists scratching their heads. High-speed guitar playing can often rely on a natural falling of the fingers into common patterns, but there's nothing predictable about this music: the incredible intervallic leaps and melodic ideas which originate from Machacek's clearly focused concept avoid being either horizontal or vertical.

Three tunes on the album are built around solo drum improvisations by Terry Bozzio. The title track is initially dark and mysterious, but dense chord clusters ultimately give way to staggered, but ultimately cohesive serpentine phrases. Randy Allar's commentary ("there ya go," "that sounds really neat") is curious but doesn't detract from Machacek's detailed layering of guitars and bass.

Some of these tunes feature Machacek's fine trio with bassist Raphael Preuschl and drummer Herbert Pirker, but the leader is a multi-instrumentalist who can be completely self-reliant as required. He plays more than credible vibes on the metrically challenging "Yellow Pages," marimba on the rhythmically tribal yet Zappa-esque "Djon Don," whose second half is built around another Bozzio improv, and bass clarinet and piano on the labyrinthine "Austin Powers."

Unlike Holdsworth, who has spent a career trying to make his guitar sound like anything but a guitar, Machacek is comfortable with the instrument's inherent attack. He delivers warm-toned chordal passages on "Out of Pappenheim," the closest thing to jazz on the album. But he's equally comfortable with using technology to make his instrument more textural.

Machacek's remarkable blend of advanced composition, masterful technique, and total musicality makes [sic], quite simply, an instant classic that transcends genre-typing, and one of the best records of the year.

Track Listing: [sic]; Indian Girl [Meets Austrian Boy]; Miss Understanding; Yellow Pages; Djon Don; Piano; Out of Pappenheim; Austin Powers; The Ballad of the Dead Dog.

Personnel: Terry Bozzio: drums (1, 2, 5); Raphael Preuschl: upright bass (3, 4,6, 8, 9); Herbert Pirker: drums (4, 6, 8, 9); Mario Lackner: drums (7); Sumitra Nanjundan: vocals (2); Randy Allar: commentary (1); Alex Machacek: guitar and everything else.

Title: [Sic] | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Abstract Logix


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Nightfall" CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "A Secret Sigh" CD/LP/Track Review A Secret Sigh
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Black Focus" CD/LP/Track Review Black Focus
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Comes Love - A Tribute To Ella Fitzgerald And Joe Pass" CD/LP/Track Review Comes Love - A Tribute To Ella Fitzgerald And Joe Pass
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 6, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.