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Keith Fullerton Whitman Playthroughs Review

Album. Released 21 October 2002.  

BBC Review

KFW (also known as Hrvatski) gets ambient, with only an electric guitar and a few...

Olli Siebelt 2002

While protocol might dictate that James Brown holds the title of "hardest working man in show business", there just might be a new contender tothe throne.

Enter one Keith Fullerton Whitman, whom the more savvy of you out there may recognize as the nom de plume of legendary laptop composer and sometime Greg Davis/Kid 606 sidekick Hrvatski. When not releasing material on his own Boston based Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge label (an homage to our friend Wagner, apparently), playing live around the world or taking photos of his pet cat, you can usually find him remixing at least 30 people a month, it seems.

By some amazing grace of skill and fate, he's recently found the time to compose an "analogue" based collection of new music for Chicago's notable Kranky label. Utilizing nothing but the good old electric guitar and a few complex effects processors, Whitman has left behind the cut-up glitch cacophony of old and has wholeheartedly embraced the serene beauty of ambient drone.Sure, it's a guitar album, but Whitman's mastery of audio manipulation turns it into something much more interesting.

On these five beautiful and spacious pieces, he's skillfully and delicately manipulated both his instruments and the effects processors, so that as looped and recycled as these tones are, they never become dissonant or overtly digital or clinical in nature.

Gentle swells of feedback are layered atop one another providing an almost heavenly glow on "track3a(2waynice)". On "fib01a", multiple cycles of sound bounce along, popping and bubbling around one another to a deep and sultry rhythm bed made up of nothing but low end body hum. Mmm...nice.

Whitman never loses the sense of overall structure, no matter how long the songs are (and yes, they are long). Saving the best for last however, "modena" slowly erupts over its seventeen minute length (told you they were long), building harmonious loop over loop into a stunning and beautiful piece of otherworldly sound that could best be compared to a shimmering pool on a hot sunny day. Whitman doesn't just make his instrument sing, he makes it shine.

Regardless of how many IRCAM algorithms he's using (you geeks out there will know what we're talking about), Whitman has captured the essence of the humble guitar in a beautiful and understated way. Although this musicshares common ground with others like Labradford and Pan American, it still retains enough of an edge to remain a beacon of pristine beauty in a world of dirty noise. It certainly makes a nice change from the usual audio incorrectness coming out of Harvard Yard these days. Let's hope he feels the urge to "do a Kevin Shields" again sometime soon.

Like This? Try These:
Kim Cascone/Keith Rowe - with hidden noise
Sheffield/Rippie - Variations
Stephan Wittwer - Streams

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