In 1987 or so a much younger embodiment of this disgruntled writer entered the Recommended Records headquarters in London's Wandsworth Road. Among several rare items he was desperately searching for a copy of Hans Reichel's Bonobo Beach, at that time practically impossible to score on the Italian territory. The man's work had been discovered years earlier on Fred Frith's Guitar Solos compilation, the beginning of an endless love for this overly humble artist. A talented improviser, Reichel was also a builder of nearly utopian tools for self-expression; in addition to innumerable bionic guitars he created the dachsophone (or daxophone), bowed wooden shapes producing mercurial voices. Besides his maker, the latter instrument was also brilliantly exercised by René Lussier, a notable example being Le Corps De L'Ouvrage (Ambiances Magnétiques, 1994).
Back to the London trip, little did I know that — over a decade prior — Bonobo Beach had been preceded by the album whose reissue we're dealing with now. Bonobo — originally released in 1976 by Jost Gebers' FMP Records — is but one of the many illustrations of unpolluted resonance that Reichel was able to elicit from his peculiar machines. Sometimes they had opposite necks pointing left and right; pickups were preposterously positioned; higher-than-normal bridges allowed him to pluck and twist harmonics in unique ways. Reichel was a precursor of tapping, employed both in linear and chordal fashion; an instinctive sense of avant-harmony was explicated by eccentric progressions emanating a slightly discordant grace. Van Halen, Malmsteen and the hordes of metal clones out there could only dream of engendering what you're going to hear in this and other Reichel albums. However, Bonobo is the place to start for the unaware, if anything for the crystalline wisdom projected by the playing; there's some scintillating fretwork in here. Even when the frets were completely absent.
Reichel was a mild-mannered, shy man I had the pleasure of meeting ahead of a set with the late (and equally beautiful) Tom Cora. Given that bonobos are reported as good-natured, tender monkeys who share their food in case of necessity and, in general, are inclined to a serene kind of socialization, I like to imagine that he chose to dedicate two chapters to them as a secret symbol of a quest for useful communication. Born into eternity too young at 62 in 2011, notwithstanding he did manage to give plenty to the loyal followers. If you never listened to this music before, plunge in with confidence: you'll feel richer afterwards. As the Baileys, the Rowes and the Friths get justly mentioned, please remember to include this too often overlooked mastermind from Wuppertal in that restricted group of forward-looking musicians.
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