The confluence of guitars and electronic production is nothing new. As on such recent Downstream entries as Accelera Deck’s “Fireflies” and System Boot’s “Madison,” there’s something downright retro about the digital transfiguration of stringed instuments. In part, this is because the guitar, to take one prime example, sounds like it’s rooted in the past. (Recent anecedote: Nuclear family wanders expansive floor of the Amoeba Music record store on Haight Street in San Francisco. Son looks bored out of his skull. Mom says, “Why don’t you look in the Used Rock aisle?” Son says, “I don’t like rock, Mom.”) But it’s also because so much early experimentation in the pop realm focused on the guitar. From the Beatles to Phil Spector to the Beach Boys, the guitar was a prime source of technological inspiration; it was the ant on which they focused their studio magnifying glasses.
That was especially true of Jimi Hendrix, who famously lit his guitar on fire, when he wasn’t looping it through era-defining phalanxes of feedback mechanisms. So it’s all the more appropriate that Four Tet (aka Kieran Hebden) has recorded a rendition of Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand” that’s more reconfiguration than cover. A tightly strung acoustic guitar plays the familiar melody, one of Hendrix’s most beautiful, and Hebden both tweaks the line (echoing it with premonitory snippets, whipping it up with mirrored shards) and provides a cushion of supporting instrumentation, including horns, percussion and unidentifiable field-recording effluvia. It’s easily the best electronic cover of a Hendrix tune since the Shamen did “Purple Haze.” And it’s available as a stream (sorry no MP3) in conjunction with Azuli Records in two formats: Real Media here, Windows Media here. The track is from the wide-ranging, Four Tet-curated LateNightTales compilation on the Azuli label. Previous LateNightTales have been compiled by Nightmares on Wax, Howie B, Rae & Christian, Fila Brazilia, Tommy Guerrero (who covered the Beatles’ “Come Together”) and others.