Bill Horist — The Signal Index
(Ultramarine UM017, 2012, MC)
by Jon Davis, Published 2013-06-10In the beginning was the guitar. Well, not the very beginning, of course - obviously there was a time before the guitar was invented. But we're not interested in that time right now, we're interested in guitars. In the beginning was the guitar, wood and strings played by fingers and picks. Then there was the electric guitar, which added amplification to the formula. And distortion, which is pretty much inevitable whenever an electric signal passes through wires and circuits. At first that distortion was considered a negative, to be avoided if at all possible. Then someone decided they kind of liked some of the sounds created from the distortion. Then people started inventing things that could change the electrical signal in various ways. We got fuzz boxes, phasers, wah-wahs, and so on, each with its own way of changing the signal. Once guitarists (and others) started getting a fair collection of these devices, they discovered that some combinations got out of control, creating weird feedback and other undesirable noises. But, just as had happened with the first distortion, some decided that those noises in themselves could be used in a musical (roughly defined) context. At that point, the guitar becomes more or less irrelevant, and the initial signal could come from anything capable of generating an electrical signal. Bill Horist is a guitarist who spans this entire range, from naked acoustic guitar to effects-as-instruments, though on this recording he stays mostly to the effects side of the continuum. The Signal Index (yes, that says "MC," for "Music Cassette" up there) consists of two pieces in the 14-17 minute range. Prepared guitar is the only thing used for signal initiation, though it's mostly impossible to tell what was used. And while this method of sound creation can certainly result in abrasive noise, Horist is aiming for a more meditative, almost ambient mood. There are gauzy washes of sound in the background, weird little skritchy echoes, quiet wails, spastic twitchy notes, but no massive blasts of noise. It's oddly calming, and the lack of beat or melody seems unimportant in this setting. Not for every mood, but when it fits, it really works.
Related artist(s): Bill Horist
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more