David Howell Evans. In art, and for everyone, simply The Edge. No, we’re not talking about U2. It wouldn’t be worth it. They have had their day and rightly so, they continue to give us some decidedly trivial songs, dull photocopies of an exceptional creative period, but I grant it to them in virtue of precisely that period which has so indelibly marked the history of popular music and the affection that as a fan I can not fail to pay him. U2 have grown older butThe Edge has aged better than them. Let’s talk about The Edge and this record, the soundtrack of the movie “Captive”, made in 1986 and, at the moment, David’s only solo record.
Why shall we talk about a rock and pop guitarist? Because The Edge was a revolutionary in his time and he managed to create a totally personal way and approach to the instrument that changed and influenced the way of playing the guitar of many modern artists in the pop genre and not only. Impeccable, sublime and maniacal perfectionist has succeeded by calibrating every sound to the millisecond, controlling an exponential number of effects and settings, using a large number of different guitars (it’s estimated that he has a number between 50 and 60 guitar models) to create a personal, recognizable and rich sound in nuances that sanctioned a new way of playing the guitar in the rock arena. What are the characteristics of the sound of The Edge that we can consider an innovator for?
First. David was one of the few rock guitarists, all part of the post-punk genre, who was able to continue and prolong rock’s history by playing an electric guitar with no blues accent. This was the first major stylistic innovation: knowing how to break out of an already richly consolidated tradition of guitarists who put their stylistic roots in another genre already well aesthetically defined and bring rock to a new aesthetic level.
Second. The Edge was one of the few guitarists in a muscle, epic and macho genre like rock who didn’t play solos. This is not a trivial thing. Removing the rock guitar’s solo means radically redefining not only the structure of the classic rock song, but completely reviewing the guitarist’s charismatic role on stage, a role previously well defined and consolidated by at least three generations of artists and fans.
Third. Through a clever abuse of technology, The Edge has been able to build a personal sound, based on the minimal reproduction of a few notes, repeated in infinite overlapping loops with such millimetric precision that one wonders if he got counterpoint lessons from Steve Reich.
These three aesthetic decisions have started a musical form where the charismatic guitar leader usually in perpetual competition with the singer moves to the band’s service, where his role as a first woman is downsized, where he no longer has to create a combination of chords and power chords and play virtuoso solos, but work at a textures’ level, creating atmospheres that can hardly be replicated by the fan with the acoustic guitar in the classic beach gathering with friends. Solutions that we loved in so many U2 tracks, but that we had little way to appreciate directly from The Edge itself. The possibility of listening to his solo production, far from the direct influence of the other members of his band, is reduced only to this album, “Captive”, a work now dated and the result of collaboration with another guitarist known in the experimental field for the his “Infinite Guitar”, Michael Brook. A single solo album and it’s a soundtrack, I don’t think it was a random choice. Free from the U2’s rock and pop infrastructures and, we are in 1986, perhaps with the still fresh memory of the Brian Eno’s productions, The Edge gives life to environmental music with cinematic aims. More than his trademark trust, the delay, here he relies on impressive atmospheric textures, listening to the record one could wondered if this is really The Edge of Rattle and Hum and of The Joshua Tree records. This is the album of The Edge who played The Unforgettible Fire, A Sort Of Homecoming, Promenade, MLK and Indian Summer Sky. This is open, slowed down music, dilated in a delay, always open to the maximum.
“Captive” is a record of regret. The regret that it all ended here, that The Edge didn’t want to continue, that we wanted to work only for the U2’s production, that he didn’t know or wanted or could still give us something else so personal and attentive. With his potential, with his talent this sound architect would have been able to give us many other emotions. “Captive” remains an isolated voice, a record relegated to the corner of the memories of some fans, an unexpressed potential, a broken line. Such a pity, David Howell Evans.