ALBUM REVIEW: Fritz Pape – ‘From My Guitar At Homes’: inventive sonic studies for the ambient-minded

FRITZ PAPE began his musical journey under the alias Zijnzijn Zijnzijn!, under which banner he undertook to create impenetrable, even frightening, waves and barrages of guitar, right up in your face a la Swans or Boredoms.

With an eye to the trail laid by Glenn Branca, he’s also been known to put together ensembles of guitarists in order to play with repetition and volume and the particular aural qualities of the massed six-string put through its paces.

He’s known for playing extensive and minimalist live sets; his first release under his own name, Drone Marathon #1, did exactly what it said on the tin; in its sleevenotes he is quoted as saying that the CD release, at just shy of 68 minutes, is “an edited, album-friendly version of a five-hour performance that I did on March 4th, 2018, at Urban Artifact in Cincinnati, OH”.

After tinkering in other sonic areas – last year’s Of Paradise explored the Eurorack synthesiser as a tonal palette – he’s returned to his first love, the guitar, for From My Guitar At Homes, out now on Kentucky’s Somewherecold.

Boredoms, you say. Swans, you say: should we be scared?

No. You absolutely shouldn’t. Inventive, varied and multi-textural From My Guitar At Homes may be, but it’s a record of really deep beauty.

Take opener “E” (we’re into nomenclatural minimalism here, for sure): it’s a fragile being, rolling on a thumbed bass-string and light chord play that brings to mind the nautical guitar-scaping of Mick Turner. Out back, there’s high tones of granular, patched and distant feedback work with all the delicacy of spun sugar. It’s contemplative and enveloping.

“III”, “J” and “A” concern themselves with how far you can push a guitar in prettiness and a simultaneous alien texture through patches, backward-masking and the like. “III” in particular comes on like trilling birds, with echoes of the much-missed The Books buried in its harmonic qualities. It chatters and pauses, chatters and pauses, violins in and out. “A” trills and bleeps with echoes of early electronica experimenta; say, Tom Dissevelt. In Fritz’s hands the guitar becomes less a being of wire and wood, and more something intangible in the ether; a data rush made sound.

“B” sits deep in the drone degenerative beauty of Kevin Shields and William Basinski. It’s like a tape of a tape of a tape of a tape of a tape of some caught guitar ambience drifting over your yard on the wind. The guitar is almost entirely shorn of its traditional tonal range and is cuckoo-nested with evocative granularity. It’s a short blast, but a thoughtful one. Sequential in terms of alphabet, but not in tracklisting, “C” is a submerged scape of guitar chimes rising in a stream of bubbles off the ocean floor, popping in your ears. “H” remains ‘neath the wave, although there’s shafts of light reaching us at this fathomage; high tones glimmer in that light like shoals of fish above you. If Windy & Carl are your thang, well …

But the twin pillars through which the album sails are “II” and “I”, both odysseys clocking in around the quarter-hour mark. The former works forward into your brain on nuanced and distant violining coupled with muted plucking; there’s a drone over the horizon just making itself known. Simplicity begins to give way to interplay and harmonic complexity. As it unfolds, some of the layers begin to stutter and drop out, slur by microtones, decay. This granularity increases and foregrounds, becomes the focus; it leaps and judders, the melody wrung to a dance of static. We’ve embedded “II” at the end there, for you to take a listen.

For me, the absolute bewitching and beguiling moment on this album is “I”. There’s a recurring, phasing, rhythmic pulse that builds in speed, builds in speed and winds down again, waiting for its potential energy to realise as movement; some kind of fanciful, organic, esoteric machine, like a Foucault’s pendulum. Meanwhile, landscapes of beatific drone and very distant guitar melody meander. It unfolds oh so gradually; climb deep inside and you’ll hear ever more distant delicacies contributing to what is a very blissful track with this little hint of calming abrasion, if that’s not too right-angled a concept. It’s a masterful 15 minutes. This is one of those musics without end that you want to just develop and develop and develop, maybe over say … ooh, a day or two.

By turns submerged, experimental and deeply blissful, you’ll be glad Fritz came home to the guitar. Curl up like the cat on the cover and let it wash you away places.

Fritz Pape’s From My Guitar At Homes is available now from Somewherecold Records on digital and an extremely limited CD issue: to pick up this little drone gem, pop over to Bandcamp, here.

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