Guitarists indulge in seemingly endless amounts of gear in the quest for their individual tone. It was a rare occurrence to see five commanding, unique stylists - Montreal's Tim Brady, Antoine Berthiaume, Bernard Falaise, and Gary Schwartz with New York's Kevin Gallagher - seek a common sound in a chamber group. They achieved this blend surprisingly well. The group pieces were prefaced by solo excursions by Gallagher and Brady, demonstrating the role of touch, nuance and sonics in electric guitar music. Gallagher opened with the evening's earliest piece, Scott Johnson's Epiphany Machine, a minimalist piece enhanced with pitch-shifted delays and volume swells. He then performed two movements from Urban Mosaic, written to exploit various guitar techniques - the first featured the E-Bow, and the second featured fingerstyle guitar. The eBow movement elicited controlled caterwauls to brilliant effect.
Brady followed with Misfit, composed by sound designer Monique Jean. It was unclear how much of it was processed guitar, and how much of it were samples being triggered either by Brady or Jean. As there were no program notes for any of the pieces, I wasn't sure how the guitar and electronics were interacting. It was intriguing from a "how'd they do that" perspective, but it left me a little unmoved. Brady's 57 Ways to Play Guitar was in a similar vein, although the various samples and "tape" loops were clear in how they interfaced with Brady's live guitar.
The second half of the concert were all premieres. Brady opened with O is for Ostinato, another delay-and-distortion-laden exploration of the guitar. Antoine Berthiaume's piece was episodic, ranging from very clean interlocking parts to a haunting 4-eBow chorale, and Brady thrashing his guitar, exclaiming "You call this a guitar solo?" Elements of Berthiaume's trio playing and the avant-western of his group Rodéoscopique were brought to bear here. Professor Gann's piece, Composure, was easily my favourite of the evening. Eminently beautiful with Brady delivering a great reading of its melody and some subdued rhythmic complexities. The concert closed with Falaise's Parcours, a series of directed improvisations that allowed for the full range of guitar
textures - from reggae skanks to prepared guitar, eBows to overdriven, delay-soaked post-rock goodness. A truly engaging concert in an intimate venue.
The Bradyworks Voyages: Montreal-New York Series continues through April 6. Tickets provided by the performers.