AMN Reviews: Raphael Vanoli – Bibrax [Shhpuma SHH031 CD]

Guitarist/bassist Raphael Vanoli’s Bibrax, a set of work for electric guitar, takes the basic practice of solo classical guitar and recasts it in the wide spectrum of colors attainable only through electronic devices.

Like many conservatory-trained musicians in recent years, Vanoli is as involved with rock-derived music as with jazz and music in the Western classical tradition. He studied jazz and classical guitar at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and went on to perform the music of Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, Makoto Nomura and others. But he also played in a number of rock-based ensembles including Knalpot, a duo with drummer Gerri Jäger. Bibrax is his first solo release.

For the recording, Vanoli used a stereo setup employing a modified Fender Stratocaster sent through an elaborate pedal chain and then outputted to a bass amp on one side, and one of six guitar amps on the other. Unsurprisingly, the sound on all tracks is full and often of a lush—though sometimes harsh–beauty. This is apparent from the opening track, 99, which wraps floating, chime-like harmonies in a sharply honed, metallic jangle. Similarly, Perrine is a wash of consonant chords carried along on an explicit pulse. It’s vaguely muted sound may be an effect of Vanoli’s bowing the strings with a peacock feather. Lenz is one of several pieces created with Vanoli’s signature technique of blowing across the fingerboard to set the strings in motion. The piece consists of shimmering chords brought on with a gradual attack and fading with a long decay. As with the other pieces on the recording, its beauty carries just enough of an edge to keep complacency away.

Daniel Barbiero