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Minimalism and Its Echoes

Nathan McLaughlin is at the height of his powers.

Nathan McLaughlin’s performance this Sunday was a highlight of a weekend packed with free live online shows. There are many more such shows to come during our time of widely distributed isolation, and I recommend not only a listen to his gig, if reflective solo guitar sounds up your alley — but also one if you’re planning on playing live online yourself. He does so much, so simply, and (audio glitches in the archived transmission aside) with enviable concentration, that it’s a model for such a thing as destination viewing. The video is just him, in a wooden chair, with an acoustic guitar in hand, and enough (largely off-screen, though there is a reel-to-reel machine rolling along against the wall) equipment to lend his already raga-like playing a nimbus of graceful echoing. There’s a clear aesthetic connection between his minimalist finger-picking and the hall of sonic mirrors in which it occurs — so clear that the two factors in fact blend together. Close to the end, he ruptures the fabric of performance by stopping his picking. He turns the guitar up in his lap, as a recording of his playing plays on. And then he takes a bow to the strings, and creates a drone that consumes all that came before, and then he gets up from the chair and walks off-screen, leaving the drone to drone, until he slips back in to lower the volume to a finish. I’ve been listening to and writing about Nathan McLaughlin’s music at least since January 2006, back when he went by the name Doogie, and, at least to my ears, he’s never sounded more thoughtful and focused.

Video originally posted at the YouTube channel of the Decentralized Sonic Quarantine Network. More from Nathan McLaughlin, who is based in Hudson, New York, at nathanmclaughlin.bandcamp.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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