Saturday, January 10, 2009

Allan Holdsworth - Sand

Chopsmonkey Allan Holdsworth is one the most enigmatic musicians ever to bend a string. A long and storied career includes stints with everyone from John Stevens to Gong and Soft Machine. He was a founding member of horrific mershproggers UK and has released a series of headscratching solo albums, beginning with 1976's "Velvet Darkness" and continuing to the present day. He combines oddly constructed fusionesque riff structures with alien soloing worthy of Greg Ginn, but all covered with a nauseating production sheen calling to mind the worst Miami Vice-style excesses of the 80s and bizarrely reminiscent of the recent solo work of James Ferraro if you squint your ears tightly enough.

During the time when 1987's "Sand" was recorded, he had set aside his guitar for the most part in favor of the Synthaxe, a freaky-looking MIDI monstrosity which he insisted on using to trigger only the most quease-inducing New Age synth textures available, although his playing is far too harmonically weird to appeal to the sort of folks who might normally enjoy these kinds of sounds. One can at least be grateful that this particular album leaves off the wretched Wetton with Down's Syndrome vocals that tainted his earlier LPs.

While his oeuvre remains thoroughly indigestible, in the right state of mind it succeeds in conjuring up a cosmos all it's own, a bizarro world where Robert Fripp and Kenny G might jam out covers of Black Flag's "The Process of Weeding Out" after a long night spent nodding on cough syrup. There's a wealth of strangeness here that should prove fruitful to any and all interested in the more twistedly kitschy end of today's underground scene. Check it.

- ((KE))

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