Bill Nace - Both Music Album Reviews

The experimental guitarist who made his name on collaboration steps into the spotlight with a meditative, ominous solo LP. Each of these eight pieces is like a pitch-black room, easy to enter but tricky to navigate. 

More than any of his peers in his experimental-music scene, the guitarist Bill Nace has built his career on collaboration. Of his 45 entries on Discogs, only seven are solo, and they’re mostly limited-run, self-released affairs. He’s been much more interested in playing with people across the avant-garde spectrum, from free jazz veterans Joe McPhee and Mats Gustaffson to rock musicians Steve Gunn and Thurston Moore to polymaths Okkyung Lee and Kim Gordon (partner in his most well-known venture, Body/Head).
All this collaboration has defined Nace, but it’s also made him something of a cipher. Because the records he plays on are usually instrumental and abstract, it can be hard to locate exactly which sounds and ideas are his. That keeps his work varied and fresh, and means he sees his comrades as equals rather than supporters. But Nace’s musical personality is oddly undefined for someone who’s been on over 40 releases. Though it’s long overdue, a full-fledged, higher-profile solo album raises the question: Can Nace maintain his shadowy persona all by himself?

As the title hints, the answer provided by Both is yes and no. On eight instrumental, guitar-only tracks–all with plain, numbered names–Nace makes bold, loud noises and active, committed moves. Despite being wordless and non-melodic, each track has a discernible structure. They begin with sounds that at first seem random but, by warping into waves or clipping into rhythms, eventually become motifs. In “Part 2,” what sounds like a guitar cord being pulled out and plugged back in becomes a kind of subconscious beat, while “Part 7” offers two oscillations whose variations in volume build them into mantras. Even on the longest track, the nearly 11-minute “Part 6,” a wide range of sounds gain momentum—and verge on chaos—through basic rhythmic panning. Each piece is like a pitch-black room, easy to enter but tricky to navigate.

Nace’s guitar tone is rough and gritty, continually generating tactile waves that you can grab onto and ride, and the result is both meditative and ominous. Both shares an eerie, hypnotic quality with the unhinged loops of Aaron Dilloway and the darkened seances of Marcia Bassett, aka Zaïmph. But Nace’s repetitions rarely hammer you with a single unwavering sound. Instead he dodges and darts, creating space for you to fill in blanks. In that sense, Both might be more about its listener than its creator. If by the end we still don’t know exactly who Bill Nace is, we certainly have a better idea of how much he can do.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Bill Nace - Both Music Album Reviews Bill Nace - Both Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, June 02, 2020 Rating:

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