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Friday, December 30, 2022

Mat Ball – Amplified Guitar (The Garrote, 2022)

By Guido Montegrandi

Amplified Guitar is about guitar, amplifier and feedback and some by-products like fuzz and distortion. Talking about his work Mat Ball says: “it’s definitely an exercise to me, a decision to just keep it as simple as possible (…) see if I could make a record of just like single take performances, no overdubs”.

Simple but not simplistic and focused on making music interact with the environment.

Each of the three piece has different renditions (To Catch Light I, II, III, Within The Billow I, II, III and Steel Wound Arteries I, II) exploring the possibilities of an idea, of a relation between guitar and amplifier.

Defining feedback the Oxford dictionary states: “1. The return of a fraction of a signal from one stage of an electric circuit, amplifier etc, to the input of the same; the signal so returned 2. (in biology and psychology) modification or control of a process or a system by its results or effects, especially by the difference between a desired and actual result”.

Amplified Guitar has to do with both of these and the result is a series of meaningful pieces that engage the senses and the mind of those who are willing to listen.

Now some useful general information...

Mat Ball is the guitar player of BIG|BRAVE a Montreal trio founded in 2012 and operating in the realm of heavy hypnotic experimental music (just to use some, probably not very meaningful, labels). This solo work has been produced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor Efrim Manuel Menuck in Montreal Hotel2Tango studios.

The record is coupled by: “Accidents” a collection of images which operates “as a visual analog to the Amplified Guitar LP, the work in Mat Ball's book Accidents is also based on chance: chance in discovery, chance in process, or chance in accidental results. Whether found at rest and documented in that natural/untouched state, or assembled/touched by Ball's hand, the aleatoric element in each piece is vital.” (from the press release of

Just as the photos in the book portrait instants: deserted spaces, empty landscapes, corrupted images, these pieces, recorded as single takes, are acts dealing with space and objects and time and the relation they establish with each other - feedback.

Amplified Guitar is reminiscent of Tony Conrad (to which Mat Ball dedicated Four Amplifiers, a 2020 reinterpretation of Conrad’s Four Violins) but also of Neil Young’s Dead Man both for its relation with images and for the sense of storytelling that runs through the tracks. That said, it remains a very personal and captivating piece of work.

Online you can find the album trailer with images and thoughts about the making of the record that Mat Bell shares with us and a video made by Joshua Ford at the Garrote premises for To Catch Light III presenting a fascinating minimalistic sequence for one of the best piece of the album.

The tracks on the record are ordered grouping all the first renditions of the three series of tunes, then the seconds and the thirds, you can follow this order or rebuilt the playlist by your self concentrating on one tune and its variations; in both cases a rewarding experience.

You can purchase both the record (in physical or digital form) and the book on bandcamp