Speak Puppet

Janet Feder

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Speak Puppet Review

by Fran├žois Couture

Speak Puppet is Californian guitarist Janet Feder's first album. She plays an assortment of prepared guitars, from classical guitar to Dobro. She attaches small objects to the strings, a technique which allows her to produce accompanying sounds and textures without rendering the guitar's sound unrecognizable. Her pieces are strongly inspired by folk music ("Puppet"), although they often follow unorthodox structures. Richard Leo Johnson comes to mind, along with Fred Frith's acoustic guitar projects, and the short-lived Quebec collective Conventum. Other, more ethereal comparisons would have to include Hans Reichel, Leo Kottke, and even oni Mitchell or Bruce Cockburn. Feder's music remains very much accessible and ear-pleasing. The enriched sonorities of her classical guitar work marvelously on the laid-back "Shouting Valley," a duet with harpist Margot Krimmel. Other guests include Thinking Plague's leader Mike Johnson (on "Puppet") and poet Mark Weber (on "Almost El Paso"). All the most consistent tunes are found in the first half of the album. Things start to deteriorate with "Sueno (Remix)," which adds to one of Feder's pieces a drum loop and some turntable work. "Red Drum" lacks direction and the overlong "Leaving Light (Remix)" (again with a drum machine track) just doesn't provide the conclusion this album deserved. A surprising release from the British label ReR Megacorp, who usually produces more avant-gardist music, Speak Puppet can open the minds of folk-picking lovers.

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