For avid fans of instrumental acoustic guitar music, there aren’t many real surprises anymore. These days, it’s hard to imagine a new player who could hit the scene and affect a seachange along the lines of, say, Davy Graham’s restless early experiments with Middle Eastern motifs, or John Fahey’s genre-spawning blues distillations. Even two of today’s most head-turning young instrumentalists, James Blackshaw and Kaki King, earned their reputations not by reinventing the wheel, but by designing their breakthrough recordings around the musical templates of Robbie Basho and Michael Hedges, respectively.
…and what’s wrong with that? After all, innovation isn’t everything. Indeed, when it comes to guitarists, it seems that those who decide to eschew tradition entirely tend to lean on gimmicks… more strings, more effects, atonality, more notes and played FASTER! All of those things can be great in small doses, but at the end of the day, when someone sits down behind a six (or twelve) string wooden box, I hope to hear something musical. It doesn’t have to be tricky, it doesn’t have to be fast, and it doesn’t have to be a revelation… give me a little soul, just the right amount of technique and some compositional flare, and you might very well have a fan for life!
Time Lost is the new album by guitarist M.Mucci, and on first listen, it seems perfectly in sync with what’s happening in underground acoustic guitar at this moment in time. There are strong echoes of Fahey, as well as the current crop of Takoma-inspired players. Opening track “Small Triumphs” particularly reminds me of Israeli guitarist Yair Yona, with its warm, strummed chords and lazy slide giving way to a patient, melancholy pattern-picking section. As Time Lost unfolds, Mucci, like Yona, betrays a healthy indie and post-rock influence in his approach to recording and arranging, and more often than not, that sensibility helps to keep the momentum going and the songs interesting.
Second track “The View From Here” gets just a little more sinister, featuring tense chords and an insistent boom-chick in the bass. Again, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, but Mucci plays cleanly and with conviction, and his obvious affection for the style helps to sell the piece. “The Culprits” continues both the mood and tempo, but with a slight ramp-up in dynamics after a very C. Joynes-esque prepared guitar intro. Mucci brings in a little aggressive slide playing before the close of the piece, which doesn’t really take the song anywhere… if anything it calls attention to the composition’s repetitive nature and lack of a real melody.
The album features two short, watery dirges entitled “April L’occhi Pt. 1” and “April L’occhi Pt. 2,” each closing a side on the vinyl version (which, incidentally, is a limited edition of 300 copies). At first, these segues again put me in mind of Yona, and some of the post-rock production touches that he employs on his Remember album. Listening further, though, I’m more inclined to infer the influence of Robert Fripp and his “Frippertronics” washes of ambient, tape-looped electric guitar. It’s probably complete coincidence, but the “April…” bits sound like they could be right at home on Fripp’s Exposure album.
The Fripp/King Crimson vibe returns again on “A Day Like Any Other,” which has Mucci picking in 5/8 time along to some minimal but effective cymbal work. The mood here is foreboding, and again more pattern than melody oriented, but the song’s dynamics, odd time signatures and various arrangement elements give it a more unique and personalized sound, causing it to stand out from the American Primitive pack.
M.Mucci – “A Day Like Any Other”
Along with side two’s opening “Chase Down Alice St.,” an energetic song that features kit drumming by Robb Cappelletto, “A Day…” shows that though Mucci may not be trying to rewrite the book on acoustic guitar, he definitely has some ideas of his own. M. Mucci has succeeded in creating a nuanced, interesting and at times quite exciting record, one that not only shows great promise, but also stands up to the work of many of today’s revered young fingerpickers.