Unusual electric guitar album from Raphael Vanoli, sent to us from Amsterdam. His Bibrax (SHHPUMA SHH031CD) seems to be his first solo endeavour after playing in the avant-rock trio Knalpot. On Bibrax, he’s playing a highly-amplified instrument that is so sensitive that all you have to do is blow on the strings to make a sound. Matter of fact he’s barely touching the strings at all, apart from occasionally wafting a bird feather over the surface or allowing his hair and skin to make gentle (intimate) contact with the instrument. It’s the breathing that’s the main method of note-production though – the note by Aaron Schuster claims that Vanoli is more like a flautist than a guitar player. Vanoli arrived at this special rig through turning the amps up to 11 and applying two special booster pedals to push things even further, thus developing what is referred to a “hyper-sensitive conductor of sound”. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see him play, but I have a certain admiration for anyone who can come up with a viable alternative to decades of macho rock-posturing and axe-shredding moves, even if I am an unreconstructed Ted Nugent fan with more Kiss records in my collection than is good for my health.
Bibrax is largely a showcase for the technique, but some beautiful music emerges too – thin and wispy angelic drones, which suggest that it is permissible to at least touch the neck to make chords with the left hand; Vanoli evidently likes the diffuse, airy tones he creates, eschewing metallic precision in favour of slow-moving harmonics produced like liquid watercolour paintings. I always imagine this is what later Terje Rydal LPs for ECM sound like, wrongly perhaps; in another life, Vanoli might have been recruited to a Glenn Branca guitar orchestra, though his delicate touch might have got lost in those massed hordes of angry strings. Innovative, even highly pleasing in parts. From 6th December 2017.