Steve MacLean

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Bridges Review

by Rick Anderson

Unlike many of the young musicians who cut their teeth in New York's downtown avant-garde scene in the late 1970s and early '80s, guitarist and composer Steve MacLean makes music that is not only structurally complex and challenging, but also eminently listenable. That fact may owe more to his intervening years as a composer for films and commercials than it does to his years in the skronk trenches, but whatever the explanation, this two-disc retrospective is surprisingly fun to listen to. MacLean's influences are clear: "One Little Life" sounds like a less scrappy version of Henry Cow circa 1972; the twin guitar counterpoint of "Guitar Loom 1" has the dry, somewhat brittle prettiness of a quartal-harmony exercise by Paul Hindemith; "Maneuvers" refers back explicitly to early 20th century duodecaphony, and several other tracks would have sounded at home on one of Bill Nelson's early post-Be Bop Deluxe solo albums. None of this is to suggest that MacLean's music sounds derivative -- his sense of melody is his own, and his range of styles is very impressive -- rather, it means that his music will appeal to a wide variety of adventurous listeners and reflects a deep and broad mastery of postmodern musical concepts. Very highly recommended.

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