How can a creative react to the closure generated by Covid-19? “Amnis Alsace” by Howald, BlauBlau Records, 2021 on #neuguitars #blog
Imagine you are an artist, a creative, a musician, a guitarist. Imagine that a disease, a pandemic, a virus force you to remain closed in your home, to cut the umbilical cord made up of artistic, musical relationships that you have with your community, a group, a web of relationships with people similar to you, with whom you have collaborated for years, exchanged ideas, opinions, dizziness. Imagine having to remain closed, without being able to express your ideas, your music to the world, without being able to express yourself as you usually do, concerts, records, collaborations, teaching … relationships. What are you doing? Are you going crazy? Are you closing in on yourself? Do you reread Richard Matheson’s “I’m Legend” a hundred times? Or are you looking for a new path? You cannot leave the house and enter a recording studio. You have to do it yourself. Collaborate remotely. Exchange files. Yes of course, you did it before, but now you can only do this. An artist, a creative, a musician, a guitarist, is as strong as his chain of relationships is weak. Be wary of the lonely and solipsist romantic artist / genius. An artist is such when he not only expresses himself, his contradictions and his anxieties, but when he exists within society and a network of relationships, whether to collaborate or fight them. In a society built on relationships and narratives like ours, suspending connections is equivalent to freezing the blood of creativity. These are the reflections I try to express listening to Howald’s LP, “Amnis Alsace”.
Who is Howald? It’s the moniker of Dimitri Howald, guitarist and composer based in Bern, Switzerland. A transversal musician, with different projects between jazz, pop and traditional music, but who can also show off a master in Musical Performance in the summer of 2017 at the Hochschule der Künste, Bern. By the way, a little advice: also listen to his first solo work, “Industrial Plants”, released in 2019 for Blaublau Records.
It has something to say. There are ideas.
Howald defines himself as follows: “HOWALD is the multiplication of a lonesome shadow, feeding in signals into a chain of detour and blurring, to finally build up an architectural perspective on modernistic guitar.”
Ambitious, but it says a lot. “Amnis Alsace” is about guitars, but also about a ‘one man band’ who plays for his LP “Guitars, Vocals, Bass, Bow, Piano, Organ, Drums, Drum-Machines”. Everything, in practice. He does it all by himself.
“Amnis Alsace” seems to arise from a contingent need to create, to demonstrate that you exist, to look at yourself, to do with what you have. It’s a record that expresses the urgency to do something, to manage a time that otherwise would have ended up in nothing, wasted. In this it has its strength and its limit, it is the maximum expression of a person, but sometimes it remains stylistically flat, there are no insertions, collaborations with a group. “Amnis Alsace”, however, is also cinematic music and an LP, a physical, tangible product, a refined design, an object to be handled and observed. An extremely well-finished product. It’s also a movie. A contemplative and musical journey along the Rhine and through the Alsatian countryside. An amateur film, which brings me back to the short films made super 8. You can watch it at this link: Amnis Alsace (2020) (vimeo.com) Only images, no dialogue. Pure musical narration. Without anguish, without trauma. Howald’s music expresses a concrete, serene beauty, which he smacks of resilience and hope. He expresses a narrative. Thanks for letting me find out.