Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New to You: Jonathan Matis "Four Sculptures" (2000)

I made this album a really long time ago. When I started work on it, Bill Clinton was still the president, and no one had heard of any Monica Lewinsky. When I finished it, Sisqo's "Thong Song" was top 10. Those were the days.

It's a collection of ambient guitar pieces. At the time, I was obsessed with playing the guitar in such a way that you never heard the sound of a plucked string. Seems silly in retrospect, but this was really important to me at the time. I spent years, literally years not plucking the damn strings. Youth is wasted on the young.

Track one was made in the summer of 1998. I got all John Cage-y and recorded one long take of guitar/electronics, then a few days later did another one of the same length. Then I put them together. No edits. Turns out they work really nicely that way.

Track two is from almost a year later. This one is also made up of two live passes with the guitar and gadgets, but this time I allowed myself to hear the first track as I recorded the second. One nifty thing in the mix that you might not notice: at first the two tracks are both panned dead center; at the end, they are hard panned right/left. Over the course of the piece they are moving away from each other very, very slowly. Just like the musical material is unfolding very, very slowly. What can I say? I was into music that moved very, very slowly.

Track four is the latest of the album, and marked a personal breakthrough for me. I plucked the strings! And it was ok! In fact, I really liked plucking the strings. This piece was the end of an era. It's also the only "solo" on the album, done live with no overdubs. Also the first one that I recorded into a computer. The other three were mixed on a computer, but recorded on my cassette four-track.

That was also one of the first pieces I recorded in my basement after moving to Takoma Park, Maryland. Now, almost ten years later, that's the same room where Reversal, my rock band, rehearses. It's my friend Trav's basement now. Life is funny like that sometimes.

This record was originally self-released via mp3.com. Gather round kids, grandpa will tell you a story: Back then CD burners were still really expensive. The cheapest way for me to make a small quantity of cd's to have on-hand to sell at gigs was to upload to their site, then buy physical copies back from them at $5 each. That was a wacky time. Some kind of internet-bubble venture capital nightmare made it possible for me to get short-run cd's on the cheap (and I got a free tote bag). Not surprisingly, that company is long gone and my album went away when they did. Now it's a free download on my bandcamp page.

IF (you're into ambient loopy guitar music) THEN (you might like it) ELSE (so what? It's free).

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