Doctor Nerve's Nick Didkovsky deconstructs the power trio via email and file swapping...
Bill Tilland 2003
Along with thousands of other kids coming of age in the 1970s, Nick Didkovsky played guitar in a high school rock band. However, like the speaker in the first epistle to the Corinthians, when he became a man, he put away childish things and became a computer music programmer, teacher and composer, as well as the leader of Doctor Nerve, a cutting edge experimental music group. Didkovsky's various career moves have distanced him substantially from his naïve high school enthusiasms, but he still plays guitar in Doctor Nerve, and can be heard cutting loose with squalling blasts of pure sonic energy, catching the listeners attention like a hard slap to the face -- and serving notice that he still has his heavy metal chops.
This trio recording, made with peripatetic ex-Softs bassist Hugh Hopper and drummer John Roulat (who was Didkovsky's bandmate in that high school rock group), is not exactly a nostalgic return to simpler times, but it positions Didkovsky's musicianship front and center, giving him a chance to feature his guitar skills instead of subordinating them to other aesthetic goals.
Didkovsky has been on the experimental fringes way too long to be enticed by any well-trodden path, so this superficially simple guitar trio date is not a straightforward as if first appears. It was put together long distance, by swapping audio files on CD, exchanging emails and finally overdubbing and combining individual tracks. (Hopper and Didkovsky have never even met each other, although Didkovsky claims to have seen Hopper play once in New York.) And while the music on this CD is rock (and riff) based for the most part, Didkovsky sometimes takes almost indecent liberties with harmonics, chord changes and melody, and uses a wide assortment of effects and overdubs.
Rather than run routinely through the book of rock riffs, Didkovsky approaches the standard rock vocabulary obliquely, and sometimes deconstructs or just plain destroys it. The fourteen relatively short tracks never settle into any kind of heavy metal formula, and cover a wide range of styles -- ambient ("Jungle Rev"), Thrash ("Chaos, no Pasties"), experimental ("Overlife, Part 1"), prog rock (for lack of a better term), a waltz ("Green Dansette") and even a rockabilly shuffle ("V-ram").
Hopper's role on many tracks is to provide a foundation, laying down a thick, writhing carpet of sound on his celebrated fuzz bass (with a sound that he practically invented), while Didkovsky howls and skitters over the top, and Roulat digs in with strong basic rhythms. The variety seems totally unforced, as does the wide assortment of tones and timbre Didkovsky coaxes out of his guitars, evoking Raul Bjorkenheim on one piece and then Robert Fripp on the next. It's all part of Didkovsky's musical universe, and his inventiveness and control are such that even after fifty-four minutes of creative guitar-based music, he still leaves the listener wondering what else he might have to offer.Impressive indeed.