The Discombobulated Guitar

The Finnish guitarist Lauri Hyvärinen has come our way via Russia, on the cassette label Spina!Recs where he has been recorded duetting with Ilia Belourkov; there was also a split tape on the Helsinki label Rypistellyt Levyt. Here is Lauri now with a solo record called Ipso Kuutala (ART FIRST RECORDS AF5), whereon he plays his guitar along with electronics and small objects. “There is an emphasis on small sounds and also silence”, explains the helpful enclosed note. When I first heard this, I was both frustrated and agonised by the experience, finding the sound extremely thin and undernourished. There seemed to be zero coherence in the actual playing, which struck me as disjointed in the extreme. I’m not intending to rescind this view on today’s spin, but for some reason the disjointedness doesn’t bother me as much. Instead, it comes across like a man trying to say something, but hesitating and revising his every thought before it evens forms itself into words in his mouth. What emerges is broken thought patterns, and broken speech patterns, and long stretches where the interlocutor appears to have given up completely and left the room, rather than trying to continue this pointless conversation.

Checking past reviews, I conceded on one occasion that “it sounds as though Lauri Hyvärinen has a unique approach to playing the guitar.” That’s putting it mildly…after hearing him solo and reading the notes here, I’d say it’s doubtful whether Hyvärinen even considers himself to be a guitarist. He regards the guitar as his “main sound source”, which implies all sorts of possibilities – maybe he doesn’t believe it’s really a musical instrument. If you try and visualise what his actions and movements as captured on this recording might be, the images that come to mind are disconcerting and strange. It’s like the aliens in Spielberg’s War of The Worlds movie, who are alarmed by a bicycle wheel. Hyvärinen admits his bias is in favour of the theory and practice of improvisation, but few improvising guitarists have gone this far down the road of deconstruction and radicalisation. I have a vision of a guitar that’s so discombobulated that there’s no hope of putting it back together again. Maybe that’s the point; maybe it’s a metaphor. Maybe music itself has reached this parlous, friable condition because none of us can agree on what it means any more.

I’ve previously noted that Lauri plays in the band Neue Haas Grotesk, a noise band who use synths, guitar and drums. Today it seems apt to showcase his collaborative improvising work, which has involved partnerships with the Korean improviser Hong Chulki, French composer Léo Dupleix, Japanese drummer Naoto Yamagishi, the Finnish saxophonist Jone Takamäki, and others. This uncertain, minimalistic and puzzling non-musical scraping and humming noise, with its complete lack of tangible events or structure, is recommended if you enjoyed the whole “Onkyo” thing, but found it didn’t go far enough for you. Nice picture of a man in a Lego truck on the front, but this image seems to betoken an innocent sense of child-like fun, of which there might not be much in evidence on this record. From 30th January 2017.

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