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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Yaron Deutsch - 33 RPM (Self Produced, 2020) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni 

Israeli guitarist Yaron Deutsch works mostly in the field of contemporary music. He is the founder and artistic director of the chamber quartet NIKEL and a frequent guest in Europe’s leading contemporary ensembles and orchestras dedicated to the performance of contemporary music, including Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Ictus, and Ensemble Musikfabrik. His search of inhabiting the guitar in additional contemporary settings led him to European experimental and free-improv scenes, where he collaborated with Belgian composer-improviser-electronics player Stefan Prins in the Ministry of Bad Decisions trio and with Swiss double bass player Uli Fussenegger in the Synthetic Skin quartet and with Viennese accordionist Krassimir Sterev. Deutsch is also the curator of The International Festival for Contemporary Music in Tel Aviv, Tzlil Meudcan, (In Hebrew: Updated Tone).

33 RPM is his debut solo album, and the title refers, obviously, to the vinyl format and its two distinct sides, and to the 33 years between the oldest and the newest contemporary compositions performed on the album. Deutsch explains that he wanted to counterpoint these compositions with the aesthetic, instrumental, and idiomatic change that has taken place in New Art Music for electric guitar. Deutsch also mentions his ongoing interest in nostalgia, “here taking shape in the presence of harmonies which could roughly be categorized as tonal or modal… On one hand, contemporary by the recontextualization of such material while at the same time nostalgic by its offering of a familiar cradling musical sensation from the past”.

Side A addresses solo pieces with accompaniment and begins with American minimalist composer Steve Reich’s already iconic “Electric Counterpoint (for electric guitar and processed tape)”, commissioned in 1987 by the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival for guitarist Pat Metheny (and recorded in Reich’s Different Trains, Nonesuch, 1989), who soloed over a pre-recordings of himself playing multiple guitars, later sampled by The Orb, and more recently performed by Radiohead’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Deutsch’s version of this three-parts composition(Fats-Slow-Fast) sounds more urgent, spiky, and stressing its hypnotic, highly resonant, orchestral qualities, delivered with an impressive sense of precision and poetic touch.

The second piece on this slide is by Italian composer Marco Momi, “Quattro Nudi (for electric guitar and electronics)” (2014), described by the composer as a “brief exploration of the solitude of an instrument with its player… 'Quattro Nudi (for electric guitar and electronics)' are four pictures on the act of discovering the instrument, testing the song attitudes, the metal's virtuoso technique, and the object itself. The electric guitar becomes the toy to play with and the electronics is the mental room in which the first tests are done”. Deutsch turns this composition into a haunting, contemplative journey into different sonic universes of the electric guitar, moving from enigmatic, cinematic ones to distorted and noisy ones and concluding in a mysterious drone.

Side B is rougher, stripped in nature, and suggests a live-in-the-studio atmosphere. It begins with the composition of French Tristan Murail, once a student of Olivier Messiaen, “Vampyr! For electric guitar solo”(1984). Deutsch goes to a wild ride that incorporates powerful, effects-laden rhythmic riffs that sound as paying homage to Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, or Thurston Moore, but somehow disciplined into a super-intense, nuanced narrative that demands a unique kind of possessed abandon.

The last composition is by German colleague Clemens Gadenstätter, “Studies for a Portrait for electric guitar solo”, 12 etudes for electric guitar, written on the invitation of Deutsch as part of the Darmstadt Summer Course 2018 guitar studio project, where Deutch is a tutor, This composition is for a guitarist that is not only well-versed in the contemporary music written for the electric guitar but relies also on the sonic explorations of free-improvisers as Derek Bailey, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Orcutt, Joe Morris or Keiji Haino, weaved into a highly volatile but also a poetic texture.

An excellent album with an imaginative sonic horizon.