Riff Of The Week 6
Jonathan Wilson – Desert Raven
From collaborations with Tom Morello, Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Doobie Brothers, its obvious that Jonathan Wilson can hold his own on a guitar. Originating in North Carolina, Wilson’s music is the sweet spot between Folk and Psychedlic, and perhaps that is most evident on the track ‘Desert Raven’.
The clean and washy rhythmic feel of the acoustic guitar feels directly inspired by something from post- Beatles Harrion, whilst the down winding of the harmonized electric guitar is David Gilmour-esque at its best. A perfect tune for a road trip, that in itself is a sonic journey.
It seems Jonathan Wilson has managed to create an opus to guitar heroes – hold on tight, this is 7 minutes of wonder.
Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
Influential and an absolute must if you are sitting around discussing 90’s grunge guitar with friends. Sonic Youth were dirty and vicious with there guitar playing, often touching upon dissonance and textures previously undiscovered. Renknown for experimenting with unsual tunings and modified guitars, amplifiers and effects units – Sonic Youth took the idea of noise somewhere new with each release.
This brings us to ‘Kool Thing’ a quintessential 90’s grunge track,
Riff Of The Week 5
Paperhouse – Can
Can were unprecedented, a product of post second world war Germany, where the youth felt it necessary to distance themselves as far as possible from previous generations – and seemingly much like there generation in other countries, they turned to psychedelics and primiscious behaviour.
However, unlike their contemporaries from across the pond, Can had a transcendental nature to their music, songs that would reach 15 minutes in length, all free form and rhythmically repeatitive. A friend of mine once likened ‘Krautrock’ (a term given to the German rock music of this period by the British press) to being the sonic representation of driving down an endless autobahn, where the sense of all urgency is lost.
Paperhouse is a track from Can’s most accessible album ‘Tago Mago‘. Once again, it is incredibly difficult or technical guitar playing, but it exudes a rawness as it moves with vocals, it sweeps you up and pushes away throughout the song. Essentially to me, it is an ever changing landscape and easily one of my all time favourites.
Listen to it here –
Ode to Viceroy – Mac Demarco
In the age of technology, it seems as if music is getting more and more of an electronic focus. However, it is important to note that the rise in popularity of electronics, in conjuction with the drop of price in home recording equipment, is allowing us to hear music by self-produced artists we may have never heard before.
Mac De Marco is an example of this – a Canadian musician, living in Brooklyn with a couple hundred of dollars worth of recording equipment, making an album on his own and then taking the independent music world by storm.
Mac has become reknown for his wobbly and unconventional twee pop guitar stylings – and in all honesty, I could of picked a multitude of songs from any of his releases to highlight this. However, to me the track ‘Ode to Viceroy’ sums it up perfectly, kooky, simple, far from perfect, yet completely complimenting the song.
Enough of my thoughts, form your own here –
En Melody – Serge Gainsbourg.
History has been kind to the music and art of Serge Gainsbourg. The French singer songwriter is seen as a cult figure with boundless influence stretching into the diverse worlds of Jazz, Rock and Roll, Disco, Electronic and Funk music. Undoubtedly his most impressive ‘Guitar’ track is ‘En Melody‘ which can be found on the classic and collectible concept album ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson‘ released in 1971.
Its loose, rhythmic, hendrix-esque and full of expression. The sixties personified, this kind of guitar playing would not be out of place on a Cream record. It gives us a sense of improvisation – and it may well be so, as it just references back to the dissonant and screeching hook every once in a while, to remind that something far larger is at play here.
Fall in love with it here –
Brianstorm – The Arctic Monkeys.
In a recent years, it has felt that the artists and bands who manage to break through to the mainstream have an air of manufactured, short lived, reality TV hype. It feels as if The Arctic Monkeys are anything but that, sure, they have the hooks, the melodies and they are cool as cucumbers – but at the same time they sound and feel like a real band, taking us back to a time when a group of people would play their hearts out in a dingy sweaty jam studio.
As they have grown in fame, so has their music. Every album seems to try something different, even just slightly, for better our worse, and along the way they have given us some absolute guitar gems.
‘Brianstorm‘ the opening track from their second full length album titled ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare‘. Right from the off, the guitar playing has this frenetic energy, as two guitars blend together in this frantic harmonic insanity, which would be sure to make you speed in your car whilst humming along and air drumming on your steering wheel. Its part spy film, part high tempo madness – just enjoy it!
Riff Of The Week 3
Only Shallow – My Bloody Valentine
He often flies under the radar, unmentioned in the conversations of ‘ground breaking guitarists’, However Kevin Shields of My Blood Valentine deserves to be counted, through various sonic experimentation has crafted a style, sound and genre that is entirely unique. This is Shoegaze folks.
‘Only Shallow’ is the perfect introduction to his mastery. Track 1 on the Loveless album released in 1991 was light years ahead of its time … and once more it sounds it.
Fuzzed out and warbling, you could forgive anybody for question ‘Is that a guitar?’ and ‘How on earth is that a guitar?’
The reach of Kevin Shields sonic menace stretches beyond this track and radiates through the entire album – giving the musical arrangement this sense of oceanic and cosmic landscapes.
Enough about it – feast your ears on this …
Venus in Furs – The Velvet Underground
Venus in Furs, somehow, as a track is summed up by its track title – take the title as some sort of sonic symbolism – and even though it is titled after a 1800’s Austrian Novella – somehow, it feels as if it is meant to be.
Right from the top, the guitar playing sounds like a marching band moving through an opium den haze in old time Marrakech. The screeching dissonant sets a dark and curious scene complimenting the vocals, as the track continues to reach a climax.
Its beauty lies in its disregard for perfection which allows the riff to continue to feel fresh despite its repetition. It’s original, simple and pivotal to a classic track, on a classic album by one very special band.
Riff of the Week
Welcome to London Guitar Academy – RIFFS OF THE WEEK
BLACK BAT LICORICE – JACK WHITE
Jack White has become sort of a modern guitar icon, referencing the past and time travelling it forward to the ears of the future, a traditional blues spaceman if you while, and this is part of the many reasons I find it very difficult not to love Jack White.
From his second full length solo record ‘Lazaretto’ is the track ‘Black Bat Licorice’. The track itself is this ever evolving piece of music which presents that kind of post modern mania that Jack White has been to seen to explore in his more recent releases.
However, its all about the opening riff to Black Bat Licorice – featuring an octaver type sound and a groove that wouldnt be out of place in a Rage Against The Machine song, the riff somehow feels completely at home in marrachi setting, whilst teetering on the edge of something one could hear on the Adams Family – Now, if that description makes you curious and rightly so, listen to the track here –
15 STEP – RADIOHEAD
It seems hard to remember now, but once upon a time Radiohead were a guitar bearing brit pop band, but in what seems light years ago, it seemed they were slowly abandoning our silly six stringed friend, guitars were featuring less and less on each release, and it felt as if Radiohead were taking the deep plunge into Aphex Twin / Berlin Diskotek territory.
This was until their 2007 release ‘In Rainbows’, not only had Radiohead brought back the prominence of the guitar in this record, but in melding it with their previous electronic exploration, they had found a new use and sonic space for it.
This brings us to track one from In Rainbows ’15 step’. Set upon a 5/4 rhythm which sounds as if popcorn is popping with excitement within your ears comes Jonny Greenwood and his signature telecaster sound. Once again the riff is simple, yet so complimentary – it has this 60’s surf feel, but in the same breath it would not be out of place in a lounge jazz bar.
I could rave on, but as most things Radiohead, its best experienced in seeing them do it live. Watch a live performance on the track here –
London Guitar Academy’s Riff of the Week
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