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Monday, August 3, 2015

Tashi Dorji – Appa (Bathetic Records, 2015) ***½

[b]By Chris Haines[/b]

Tashi Dorji is a Bhutanese-American improvising guitarist.  Initially when growing up in Bhutan his early influences were mainly classical and flamenco music, and after moving to the United States he discovered music, which was not easily accessible back in his homeland, such as Albert Ayler and Derek Bailey.  It is with a blend of his formative musical influences and his latter that the music on Appa (which means ‘Father’ in his native tongue) comes to fruition.

Appa is an album of thirteen solo guitar pieces ranging from between one-and-a half minutes to four minutes in length. Within these pieces there is a great deal of variety and scope within the sounds and the approach of the playing.  The up-beat and jaunty “Death Flowers” starts the album with its up-lifting melody, serene chords and off-fret (either bridge to tailpiece or headstock depending on the guitar) string sounds.  A beautiful miniature of a piece with a carefree simplicity that belies some of the more subtle complexities that come later in the album.  “Forbidden” is a piece for prepared guitar where the guitar is transformed into a percussive instrument by the use of objects being placed or attached to the strings, which generates a sound not too dissimilar from some African instruments such as the Mbira or thumb piano.  There is a wonderful complexity in the tone of this piece as the strings vibrate causing the preparations to buzz and rattle which creates something more than the sum of its parts.  “Nine” starts with a finger picked chordal figure that reminds me of the sort of thing that Steve Hackett would play on his classical guitar, whilst “Vast Air” hints at an air of Americana and “Errant Sphere” shows the Derek Bailey influence a bit more directly.

Overall there is a pastoral nature to the music contained within the album where space meets subtle but at times complex textures.  Much of the album has a reflective feel to the pieces and there are many genuinely beautiful moments that arise throughout the course of it.