The Azusa Plane

The Highway's Jammed with Broken Guitar Heroes

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This American group released a string of independent CDs in the '90s, which are all vaguely avant-garde guitar experiments that failed to reach the peaks of psychedelia, blues, or noise corrosion that they aspired to. This release on the Belgian K-RAA-K 3 is an installment of what seems to be an inspired guitar solos series, with a magnificent release from Shifts setting the precedent. This recording is unfortunately abstract, with aspirations toward deconstruction of the guitar by way of scattering its componential parts into a collage of noise. Without the excitement or agility of free improvisers such as Fred Frith, who in the '70s created compelling music by amplifying guitars as he build them live on-stage, this CD of lo-fi experiments lends little credibility to the form. While at times the juxtapositions of noise can be intriguing, they become diverted often too soon, never allowing the ideas to fully develop. While this approach has all the trappings of avant-gardism and minimal improvisation, it fails to sustain interest throughout, and leaves one pining for the more formulaic string sounds of previous Azusa Plane recordings, where John Fahey's influence was more evident than John Cage.