Guitar and Tone (MP3)

Hey Exit plays it straight but adds a touch of electronics

At 1:39, suspicions are verified. In the expansive world of experimental music, it’s pleasant to listen to each new individual track as a standalone entity, to take it as a self-contained whole, let its internal coherence be the ear’s sole guide — but there’s always some bit of metadata to help shape the imagination in advance. It may be a title giving white noise a conceptual framework, or it might be a brief annotation, alloying the sonic abstractions with facts about performance technique. Or it may, simply, be the musician’s name.

Hey Exit is Brendan Landis, whose experiments in music and sound generally employ some manner of string-based instrumentation (guitar, koto), a dose of noise-based sonic perception, and sometimes digital processing. So, when “It’s Just an Ugly Thing to Say,” a track he recently uploaded to his account, begins with a slowly played acoustic guitar, the ears do two things: first, they wait for the noise, and second, they listen for the potential processing. They wonder, when the acoustic guitar’s notes begin to double, if that is two fingers, or if there is a digital tool being enabled as a subtle level. The sequence is slow, distantly folk-like.

And then, at 1:39, a note kicks in that is far beyond the guitar’s fundamental range. It is a single held note: a round, sour bit of sine-wave emersion that sways a little here and there. It blankets the guitar but doesn’t mute it. It confirms that this is, indeed, Hey Exit, and that a throwback John Fahey fan hasn’t hijacked his SoundCloud account. And it plays with the foregrounded guitar part, as the ear seeks out harmonic alignments and metric significance. It lasts for just over a minute, this tone, and then disappears. But like a bright light impressed upon the retina, it leaves an after image.

More on Landis, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, at

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