by Tyler Wilcox
As the author of Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, Steve Lowenthal's name has undoubtedly become familiar to many Delta Slider readers in 2014. But Lowenthal's involvement with the American Primitive scene goes even deeper. For several years, he's been curating the Vin Du Select Qualitite
(VDSQ) label, a limited-run, vinyl-only series. The concept is simple -- each VDSQ release features two sides of solo acoustic guitar work from a single player. The latest batch of wax is very much worth your time.
First up is Anthony Pasquarosa, a western Massachusetts guitarist who has recorded previously under the name Crystalline Roses. He's new to me, but on the strength of these two sides of gorgeous 12-string excursions, I hope to hear more soon. Pasquarosa's songs weave and wind beautifully, reaching celestial heights that will have you reaching for comparisons to the two Bashos (Robbie and Steffen). Not sure if Anthony's tongue is slightly in cheek when he writes that he uses the guitar "is my communicatory device to the extraterrestrial worlds and is used in the unlocking of interior keys." But the music is good enough that I'll take him at his word.
Sir Richard Bishop is a lifelong member of the American underground music scene, having co-founded the unfathomably eclectic, unclassifiable and adventurous Sun City Girls back in the early 1980s. As a solo artist, he's grabbed ingredients from gypsy jazz, psychedelia, Middle Eastern music and noise (to name just a few genres) and mixed them into a heady, consistently intoxicating brew. The globetrotting Sir Richard recorded his contribution to the VDSQ series, a three-part suite entitled Hypostasis, in Genthod, Switzerland (on a borrowed guitar, no less!). He sounds right at home though, crafting an absorbing, adventurous LP. Rarely straying from a mysterious, minor-key vibe, Hypostasis is another winner from a masterful, rarely disappointing musician.
Finally, we have Bill Orcutt's VDSQ LP. It's by far the most challenging of the three records discussed here -- at times it sounds as if the guitarist is attempting to destroy his instrument. But give it a spin or two and its myriad pleasures will begin to reveal themselves. In the 1990s, Orcutt led the delightfully named Harry Pussy, a wild and wooly band that skronked and screeched in a way that hadn't been heard before and hasn't been heard since. In recent years, Orcutt has concentrated on solo, 4-string guitar work, building up a thrillingly thorny catalogue. His VDSQ LP may be the best intro to his work that I've heard, abstract and at times atonal, but with dazzling runs galore and beautiful melodies occasionally emerging out of the cacophony. Orcutt's devilish and surreal sense of humor is appreciated as well; he sets the scene for one song by writing: "Imagine a white trash Basement Tapes and all the ghosts are drunk." Exactly.
Be sure to visit Tyler at Doom and Gloom from the Tomb!
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