On the cover Neil Jendon‘s new album, Live at Buddy in Chicago, Jendon stands on a stage, the image slightly blurred, as if he’s in constant motion, as if he’s contorted by rock’n’roll, as if he’s more interested in bending his guitar than playing it. From a listen to the album, only the third of those conjectures holds any water. The music is expressly still. Aside from the centrality of the guitar, Jendon’s music here has less in common with rock’n’roll than with the sort of ambience more generally associated with synthesizers and tape loops, found sounds and computer equipment. Many musicians experiment with the guitar as an ambient tool, from Greg Davis to Fennesz to Steve Roach to Robert Fripp, but few let the sonic trappings of the instrument — the sound of a strummed chord, a picked string, a discernable riff — take a backseat to resonance. Live at Buddy is over half an hour of rigorously experimental guitar music that will appeal to fans of Glenn Branca’s robust “guitar symphonies,” but also of Japanese noise, and of laptop composers’ elegant, fragile glitch.
The album’s three tracks, each over 10 minutes, are wholly distinct from one another. “Part One” traces a path less whisper-to-scream than silence-to-hum, building from quiet (so quiet that it probably makes more sense on headphones than in a live venue) to a psychedelic hymn. “Part Two” summons bracing, invigorating, piercing sounds that, over time, become comfortable, less like static and more like a fuzzy wool blanket. “Part Three” is by far the liveliest of the set, getting downright symphonic at times, in terms of depth of sound; it’s also the most varied, with segments of bell tones, pastoral hum, industrial noise, oscillating catharsis, and fuzztone drone. The album was released November 10 on the Stasisfield label’s Aux-In sublabel (mission statement: “live music, straight from the soundboard to your digital turntable”), and was recorded live on January 29 of this year. Download all three tracks for free from the album’s webpage (here). For more information on Stasisfield and Aux-In, visit stasisfield.com.