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Noel Akchote Perpetual Joseph Review

Album. Released January 2003.  

BBC Review

Minimal drone explorations from French avant rock guitarist Akchote.

Bill Tilland 2003

In the year 2003, drone guitar experiments are no longer cutting edge, and while any reviewer with a snappy line of patter can make an aesthetic case for them ("richness of harmonic overtones," "subtle control of dynamics," "sounds of celestial machinery," etc.), the actual listening experience is often something of a snooze.

Guitarist Akchote's effort stands out, though, because of his active involvement in the process. Lots of drone-based music is worked out in advance, and has the sterility of the laboratory about it (this is true even of legendary drone artists such as LaMonte Young.) You set up your apparatus, you turn it on, you tune it...and then you walk away. But Akchote's drones maintain an interesting tension between permanence and mutability.

This CD is the third in an ambient solo guitar series (following Alike Joseph and Simple Joseph), and for the most part, each of the four long tracks on the CD consists of a single note - or rather, chord -- which Akchote alters over the course of time by adding or subtracting harmonics, dampening, pitch-shifting and making minute adjustments to volume. Akchote also exercises more obvious physical control at times, either audibly flipping switches to cut or attenuate a tone, or tapping on the amplified guitar strings.

The four tracks seem to be arranged loosely in terms of increasing dynamics, with the first offering almost imperceptible changes, while the fourth is the most blatant (and generous) in its use of distortion, harmonics and pitch-shifting. The third and fourth tracks also introduce regular rhythms through the use of string tapping (track three) or a recurring harmonic pulse (track four), which gives them a somewhat livelier ambience.

Throughout, there's something quite meditative about Akchote's approach to his material. He doesn't seem to be playing for an audience as much as conducting some sort of personal investigation into the psychological and spiritual properties of sound. The result is not going to be to everyone's tastes, but it has integrity, depth and a kind of austere beauty.

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