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Abrahams, Leo: Scene Memory

In 1978 Fred Frith gave us an album, released on Virgin's budget label Caroline, called Guitar Solos. Essentially a Cageian exercise that did for the guitar what the "prepared piano" did for piano, the album was comprised of 13 pieces set firmly in a landscape built for unconstrained exploration. It's overriding aesthetic was an utter lack of preconception about both what constitutes music and what characterizes an instrument -- an aesthetic that seems all too rare, despite all the attention today's music lavishes on the electric guitar.

Leo Abrahams' Scene Memory goes a very long way to restoring that sense of exploration and curiosity and surprise. Decidedly more musical than Frith's pioneering work, Abrahams does a remarkable job of integrating initial impulses with their processed and modified consequences -- essentially making music out of music. The scope of his innovation is more profoundly drawn simply because he respects a certain level of restraint -- the solo guitar -- putting into sharp relief the seemingly limitless opportunities for the resultant sounds and forms. This economy of scale serves as a signpost for some of the more interesting trends emerging today, specifically music of a more intimate and spontaneous nature, less reliant on the availability of a practically infinite number of tracks and voices and completely reliant on the skill of the composer/performer.

Unlike his preceding Honeytrap which presented a highly diverse range of pieces, the music of "Scene Memory" is a still fluid yet highly coherent work. The changes in character, from languorous, dense and lush to angular and spare, from unexpected rhythmic passages folding into dense and shimmering clouds all originate from Abrahams' ability to make the transitions and transformations seem wholly natural. There are no contortions, nothing feels forced. The distinction is simple but profound: these are not expertly programmed crossfades from one source to another, but expert musical transformations. More concise, recognizeable, less "vertical" and shorter in duration, the calibre of these pieces place Abrahams' music at the elevation where much of Fripp's better soundscapes occur.

Leo Abrahams' Scene Memory unifies a number of the more compelling experimental, compositional and performance ideas of the past 30 years, shaping those ideas into a music that is uniquely his own. The fact that this work is thoughtful, adventurous and the result of such a high degree of artistic integrity does not prevent it from being within the reach of anyone with unimpaired hearing. If only more music were this smart, this evocative and this good.

Track Listing
1) A Different Light
2) Below Ground
3) Anemone
4) Route 11
5) Scene Memory
6) Soon
7) Pendulum
8) Signal
9) Rings
10) Love Unknown
11) Gone
12) Empty shell

Added: August 3rd 2006
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Related Link: Leo Abrahams Website
Hits: 4076
Language: english

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