Alan Licht

Plays Well

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Continuing the line of enquiry followed on his earlier Corpus Hermeticum album, The Evan Dando of Noise?, New York-based guitarist Alan Licht once more thumbs his nose at the exclusive world of improv/noise purists (the back tray of Plays Well shows Licht's product sandwiched between Alabama 3 and the Alan Parsons Project in the bins of a Japanese record store) with two extended tracks that call into question the supposed idiomatic purity of improvised guitar in a thought-provoking and highly enjoyable way. "Remington Khan," a live recording from 1997, is a stream-of-consciousness, free-flowing solo that slides inexorably into a fuzzy noise fest. It manages to recall Loren Connors and Jim O'Rourke, but also Jerry Garcia and even Terry Riley (played as it is over a steadily pulsing C). The opening of "The Old Victrola" finds Licht playing along behind Captain Beefheart's "Well" (the original a cappella recording from Trout Mask Replica), teasing this literary equivalent of a free jazz solo into the pulsing binary structure of a metrical pop song. After several minutes, the track starts sliding once again into noisy entropy before cutting without warning to...Donna Summer. Over a four-measure loop from "Dim All the Lights," Licht superimposes layers of wailing guitars, gradually building the tension (it could almost be Neu! or Rhys Chatham) until the original disco song explodes in all its glory at the 16-minute mark. The audience reaction (this part of the track was recorded live at Transmissions in July 2000) is positively ecstatic. Licht lets the song play all the way through, an exercise in pop art musicology, until his nasty, gritty guitar comes back in to mess things up, before he slips back into a second version of "Well" sung by Licht himself over a minimal, Nico-esque organ drone.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
36:58
2
36:32
blue highlight denotes track pick