Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Score With No Film (3:23)
2. Portrait of the Guitarist (7:22)
3. Piano Recital (1:42)
4. Laurence Harvey’s Despair (2:48)
5. Piano Ballet (3:35)
6. Rings Around the Moon (3:55)
7. Seven E Flat Elephants Eating the Acacia of a C# Minor Forest (7:20)
8. If Only… (5:06)
9. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” Starring Robert Walker (9:44)
10. Finale (5:35)
We are in 1995 and Adrian Belew is in full creative impetus, in the spare time left to him during the recording of the King Crimson albums Vrooom and Thrak, for which he had written songs such as Dinosaur, One Time, People, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, Cage , Inner Garden and Walking On Air, he produces this cd with the slightly high-sounding title “The Experimental Guitar Series Volume 1”, which after more than twenty-five years sounds both like a broken promise and an interesting warning against technical obsolescence and the sounds connected to the technologies in vogue at a given moment. But it will be better to go step by step. Adrian Belew has so far not found much of a place on the Neuguitars blog, a gap that it will be best to try to fill. So let’s talk about one of the most versatile guitarists we’ve ever met. Belew is rightfully well known for his long career, between 1981 and 2009, as a singer and guitarist in the progressive rock group King Crimson. He also has a long solo career, with over nearly twenty solo albums for Island Records and Atlantic Records in a range of different styles including art rock, New Wave, Beatles-inspired pop-rock, progressive rock and experimental noise. Belew has also worked extensively as a session player and touring with the bands of Frank Zappa and David Bowie, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson and Nine Inch Nails, as well as for Paul Simon, Tom Tom Club, and others. Belew has also worked in instrument, pedal and multimedia design, partnering with Parker Guitars to help design his Parker Fly signature guitar and designing his iOS mobile apps, “FLUX by Belew” and “FLUX: FX”. “The Experimental Guitar Series Volume 1: The Guitar as Orchestra” is his ninth solo album by Adrian Belew, released in 1995, his first all instrumental / experimental album since 1986’s “Desire Caught By the Tail”. Originally born as the first in a series of Experimental Guitar albums, which aimed to express musical concepts that otherwise would not have been released by conventional record labels, on this album Belew performs ten songs, ten personal compositions using a custom Fender Stratocaster and using elements technicians such as Roland GR1, GR50 & GR700 guitar synths, Korg A3 guitar processor, Roland 330 delay, Midi Mitigator, Valley 730 digital compressor, in short, freely abusing the technology available at the time.
According to the liner notes: “As the name implies, this is modern classical music in which the guitar plays the role of the various components of an orchestra. Every sound on the record is made with guitar. Part of the experimental nature of the music comes in designing those sounds rather than using samples of actual instruments. The compositions themselves were experiments. ” The basic idea is interesting in itself, to take the potential offered by the nascent technologies applicable to the guitar to the limits, managing it like an orchestra, developing new sounds instead of simple samples of existing instruments. Unfortunately, as interesting as it may seem, “The Guitar As Orchestra” treads a very self-referential creative path, which doesn’t offer much in terms of liveliness or intrigue. Without wanting to take anything away from Adrian Belew, both as a rock guitarist and as an experimental guru, this album lacks colorful meanders and subtle pleasantries. If Belew’s idea was to replace orchestral instruments with his guitar, continuing to produce music strictly anchored to well-known classical styles, then in this CD the sense of innovation fades after the first couple of tracks. What, in theory, could have been a great idea, actually turns out to be a rather monotonous and glare-free thing. Titles like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” with Robert Walker and “Portrait of a Guitarist As a Young Drum” may sound enticing, but they are compelling in name alone. There is another aspect, which however could not have been foreseen by Belew: the rapid “deterioration” of the sounds he uses, causes the fast decay curve of the technology. The music recorded on this album is immediately identified as belonging to a certain historical period, based on the quality of the sounds generated electronically by the guitar. It is the “curse” of experimentation, the ferocious desire to overcome previous limits, handing them over to history, in search of a new unexplored frontier. Here it is the sound itself that has aged prematurely, overtaken by new effects and pedals, matured within a musical structure that was already outdated from the start.
While Belew hoped that this album would be appreciated for its innovative ideas, most critics did not know what to do with this avant-garde work and the combined severity or indifference of the criticisms discouraged Belew’s intention to continue with the Experimental Guitar series. Although it was planned to create a sequel titled “The Animal Kingdom”, Belew decided not to continue along this path: “there was supposed to be a second experimental guitar record but after recording the 12:13 title track Animal Kingdom (which ended up on Coming Attractions) I ran out of steam and shelved the idea. Besides, as I soon learned, not many people care much for experimental guitar records. ” Adrian Belew