Tuesday, April 01, 2014

CD Review: Blaine Lanehan - Meta Music #27

Blaine Lanehan
Meta Music #27
(Extended) www.extendedrecords.com

Guitarist Blaine Lanehan first gained some recognition as part of a free improvisation collective in Evanston, IL. They garnered some press in their hometown despite the fact that their house concerts were attended only by the 10 members of the collective and a handful of girlfriends.

His noisy string abstractions have been located in Chicago for the past 12 years where he's generated controversy and won fans for his intense, almost deafening performances, usually performed with just a six-string guitar and a bank of pedals. On one tour he cleared the room at Pittsburgh's Garfield Artworks with a 30-minute performance consisting of guitar feedback and a 15-foot tape loop that was strung across the stage, recording the racket on one reel-to-reel deck while another played the results back 10 seconds later, providing sonic variations on the initial noise. Although he began and ended the piece, Lanehan was not in the building as it unfolded. He was down the street arguing over a lost food order.

While that performance in particular might evoke John Cage, Lanehan gets especially prickly when compared to any experimental forefather, especially Cage. With a sanctimony that Steve Albini would appreciate, he has gotten in the faces of people - even supporters about to drop money on his extensive catalog -  who dare to make a connection between the guitarist and the grandfather of experimental music. In the rare interviews he's given, it's hard to tell if the attitude is just an elaborate put-on or if he really means it. (It should be noted he has expressed a love of Derek Bailey, boasting that he owns every release on which the guitarist appears.) The Wire has praised his work, saying 15-CDr set No Hands on the Fretboard was a fearless document that probes deep into the recesses of an individual's tempermental lobe.

For the last three years, Lanehan has devoted himself to what he calls "meta-music," an approach in which the preparation for a performance is equally as valuable, if not moreso, than a performance itself. He claims that the thought process that goes into the music gives the music "a pre-destined quality that will either make it suck or not suck. That alone determines why Fleet Foxes are so awful and my music isn't," he has stated in liner notes to previous releases.

Meta Music #22 was recorded last year at the Hungry I-Land on two mikes placed above the stage. It comes with an elaborate drawing that Lanehan sketched to chart the music. Math theories about sound arcs appear on graph paper next to meticulous drawings of his effects pedals, many of which he built himself.

A continuous 32-minute piece, it begins with nothing but audience noise and clinking bottles for the first three minutes. Gradually, we hear him setting up his equipment, amp first. A delay pedal is plugged in next, which loops the buzz of a guitar cable being touched on the plug. Lanehan can be heard talking to himself as he adds different pedals and bends the amorphous sound. A girl in the audience asks, "When is the show going to start?" Lanehan snorts and says, "It started seven minutes ago."

Things don't always go as planned, he says, but "that randomness is what meta music is all about." After a while the snaps of a guitar case are heard, followed quickly by an array of expletives. Apparently Lanehan forgot to pack his guitar in the case that evening.

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