Henry Kaiser

Lemon Fish Tweezer: A History of Henry Kaiser's Solo Guitar Improvisations (1973-1991)

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Henry Kaiser is responsible, along with his new music co-patriots Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Eugene Chadbourne, and Glenn Phillips, for expanding the boundaries of guitar playing to a point almost past recognition; it's not at all unusual to hear an entire Henry Kaiser performance that is only vaguely recognizable as coming from a guitar. Lemon Fish Tweezer is a compilation of previously released and unreleased solo improvisations that charts Kaiser's career from his earliest experiments as a neophyte in 1973 to improvisations on Klein and Modulus MIDI guitars in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the music is almost never tonal or even melodic in any meaningful sense, it's almost always beautiful: "Aquirax Aida" is a gentle and sparklingly lovely exploration of bent harmonics, "It's a Wonderful Life" uses echo, distortion, and feedback in surprisingly attractive ways, and "The Nutmeg of Consolation" shows the deep influence of traditional Korean music on his playing. The MIDI tracks aren't always successful; "Red Shadows" sounds like someone messing around aimlessly on the keys of a Casio keyboard, for instance. But using the guitar as a MIDI driver for a drum machine ("Tribute to John French") was a great idea. The program ends with a strangely whimsical and utterly heartbreaking spoken-word and acoustic guitar piece entitled "Meet the Flintstones." Highly recommended.

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