After releasing a pile of albums on the Montreal jazz label Justin Time, which despite its progressive outlook on the genre was always a little overwhelmed by the experimental nature of his productions, Tim Brady delivered in 20 Quarter Inch Jacks his first CD for Ambiances Magnétiques. And a good one it is, ironically lighter than some of his previous recordings yet still challenging and charged with that special Brady-esque guitar humor. The disc contains three new works. First up is the thundering title track, a suite in eight parts running for a total of 30 minutes. Written for 20 electric guitar players (all parts performed by Brady on this recording, but it has been played live with an ensemble), the piece attempts to run through the history of the instrument in a whimsical setting of narrator-and-examples. Movement titles like "Metal," "Waves," "Harmonic Fields," or "Big Chords" are as programmatic as can be. In the "Opening," a multi-tracked Brady introduces the notes strummed one by one, à la Viv Stanshall in Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Taken as a whole the piece presents intricate arrangements, some crunchy playing, and good-hearted fun. It could be reasonably deemed too light by some detractors. The sixth part, "An Alphabet of Guitarists," is exactly that: Brady calls the name of one guitarist per letter of the alphabet over a group riff left unchanged by these invocations. Its purpose remains uncertain and its presence questionable (guitar fans may also want to debate the composer's choices). This long piece should not overshadow the presence of "Music Box Bell Curves (Hello Paris!)," a stunning 14 minutes of electroacoustic music combining wailing guitars, powerful sample treatments, and martial rhythms reminiscent of Art Zoyd. The closing "Sauchiehall Street" is a piece for guitar and tape moving from atmospheric playing to frenzied soloing and back.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture