Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz and Toshimaru Nakamura are four of the most prominent and influential musicians in experimental music today, each with extensive discographies and distinctive styles. In mid-2004, they formed the Four Gentlemen of the Guitar (4g), and played a series of shows in Europe and Canada, three of which are contained on cloud. The underlying concept of 4g is to unite four artists who each began their musical explorations as guitarists, keeping that mindset as a crucial underpinning of their work as they've each explored increasingly abstract territory, both with and without guitars.
Rowe's history has been well documented at this point. Having mostly performed within AMM until the late 90's, he's since been involved in a wide range of projects, including a slew of the most prominent Erstwhile releases. He's the cornerstone musician for the label, and the 4g grouping was his idea.
Ambarchi is making his Erstwhile debut (except for the 7 guitar disc in the AMPLIFY 2002 box set). Born in Sydney in 1969, he has been performing live since 1986. His recent work as a solo artist on Touch is very well known and respected, and he's been working with Rowe in various small groupings since 2000. Ambarchi is also co-organiser of the What Is Music? Festival, Australia's premier annual showcase of local and international experimental music.
Fennesz, known to a wider audience for his studio-constructed records like Endless Summer and Venice, is also a superb collaborative improviser, as documented on projects like FennO'Berg (w/ Jim O'Rourke and Pita), Wrapped Islands (w/ Polwechsel), Live at the LU (w/ Rowe), and ErstLive 004 (w/ Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide, and Peter Rehberg).
Since 1998, Nakamura has been exploring the possibilities of his "no-input mixing board" in contexts ranging from solo to collaborations with Rowe, Günter Müller, Sachiko M, Andrea Neumann, John Butcher and Sean Meehan. Nakamura was a prominent presence throughout the AMPLIFY 2002 box set, appearing on five of the seven CDs, an integral part of the Good Morning Good Night and ErstLive 005 releases, and will be releasing the much-anticipated follow up to the highly acclaimed Weather Sky CD with Rowe in early 2006.
There have been two larger group releases featuring three of these four musicians, Afternoon Tea (Ritornell) has Rowe, Ambarchi and Fennesz, and the 7 guitar disc on the AMPLIFY 2002 box has Rowe, Ambarchi and Nakamura, but the 4g project is the first time all four have performed together. cloud contains three performances (from Vand'ouevre, Paris and Victoriaville) from their seven city tour in May/June 2004, totalling over two hours of music. The widely differing aesthetics of the four musicians meld fluidly, forming hovering, delicate masses of sound. The packaging meshes Rowe's striking cover painting with Friederike Paetzold's eyecatching design.
|| THE FOUR GENTLEMEN OF THE GUITAR ||
At the centre of this project is the guitar, perhaps the world's most ubiquitous instrument. Here we are looking at its extended possibilities - that is to say rather than summing up guitar-ness in a Picasso-like way, we would be more interested in Mondrianesque extensions.
Christian and Toshi, although both guitar players, have performed in public mostly on instruments that have become physical and musical extensions of the guitar. In my case, along with Oren, we preserved the basic form of the guitar, obviously exploring its "non-guitarlike" possibilities, but always maintaining its essential "guitar-ness".
How might a Japanese, an Australian, an Austrian and an Englishman with very different musical and artistic personalities explore in real-time the world's most global instrument, incorporating boomerang loop stations, digital effects, mixing boards, computers etc.?
The quartet form "at first was a medium that allowed four gentlemen amateurs to converse musically"*, and from Haydn's time became the appropriate medium that produced music of the deepest personal expression and contemplative profundity.
So here we have four gentlemen, the guitar, a conversation between the analog and the digital, the north and the south.
* "the string quartet" a history, Paul Griffiths
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