To earn the title "Experimental Musician", you have to break — and continue to break — a decent amount of eggs; what is innovative, among peers or just on a personal level, about doing the same old stuff that you know already works?
For Tim Olive, his work on The Specialist comes from a need to overcome live performance issues with his instrument du jour, a Frankenstein "piece of wood with two magnetic pickups, a bass string or two and occasionally an unwound guitar string" guitar. Despite the ghosts of an ever-expanding cadre of table-top guitarists looming over his shoulder, Olive, armed with his monster and an analog preamp, lurches through a peculiar series of improvisations mired in thumps, objects drug across/slammed on soundboards and rattling resonance. A gurgling, flogging delight, "Track 1" and 'Track 2" recall what one would hear from the basement if his top-floor occupant dissected a grandfather clock with a saw and purposefully tossed the cogs around the room. Over a sustaining bed of crackling electricity, Olive manipulates a thundering pulse and periodically inserts a miniscule wind-up engine on "Track 3", carefully coaxing the trio into a static display of cracked pulchritude. On "Track 10", he nimbly balances a buzzing snarl and floppy, synthetic LinnDrum-like percussive strikes, sounding like an almond farmer with a box of bees (the bees make a run for it, the farmer stunts their escape with a smoker, wrangles them back into the cage, repeat for three minutes).
The perpetual motion shtick made famous by Keith Rowe does make a few appearances on the album (i.e. the windy, almost-melodic "Track 5" and the droning Oren Ambarchiesque "Track 12"), but Olive's most successful works are those where, as opposed to simply turning on machines and nudging their activity, following the course where they may take him, he's physically struggling, rooting around in a literal wrestling match while trying to coax music out of reluctant sound sources. Additionally, Olive's attention at the micro level gives him an anomalous slant: though he and others may choose from a similar tray of springs, electric toothbrushes and wire, the difference between his and, say, Rowe's or Tomas Korber's output is his replacement of the oft-used celestial textures (aka echo units and feedback loops) with a stark, rocky aesthetic; sans effects, you can actually here the point when he jams a screwdriver into the guitar's body or wraps a metal knitting needle around the strings. In other words, this intimacy provides an engaging parts-of-the sum perspective — and, fortunately for your ears, Olive knows how to make skronking around with wood and metal sound delightful.
As mentioned, Olive faces a high standard set by the fathers of the so-called genre, but he seems unfazed and determined. With regard to the title Specialist, well that remains to be seen; judging from his superb accomplishments when confronted with failure, one hopes Olive never finds purchase.
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