Just over a decade ago, Keith Rowe commenced Four Gentlemen of the Guitar (or 4g), a working group dealing in typically disembodied sound comprised of Oren Amberchi, Christian Fennesz, Natsuki Tamura and himself. It wasn't exactly a guitar quartet per se; it was, rather, a quartet of guitarists. Four players with a guitarist's sensibility even if Fennesz played a laptop with patches playing samples he made on guitar and Tamura (a former guitarist) played no-input mixing board.
A Quartet for Guitars, recorded in December, 2013, with Anthony Taillard, Emmanuel Leduc anf Julien Ottave, is more or less the contrapositive of that previous project. Whereas the Gentlemen's music didn't sound like guitars, the Quartet very much does. In fact, if Gentlemen sounded like guitars had been taken out of the equation, the more recent sessions sounds as if the guitarists themselves were removed.
Structurally, A Quartet for Guitars follows the form of John Cage's bracket compositions, prescribing events that should take place within a certain (generally brief) duration, but not setting them precisely within that time bracket. The result is a tension between intentionality and happenstance, between composition and improvisation. After an initial 60 second tacit, the record continues apace with scrapes, feedback and the occasional pluck of a string. The music is very much embodied, but in the instruments rather than the players. It's easy enough to imagine it as a conversation in a foreign tongue, that this is how guitars interact when there's no people around. A Quartet for Guitars is an intriguing listen, and just a little bit estranged.
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