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Fazio - Interiors [Faith Strange - 2013]

Experimental guitarist, improvisor and ambient musician Mike Fazio is someone I've given numerous positive reviews to in the past; across his various projects and alises (A Guide for Reason, orchestramaxfieldparrish, Aera) there is a remarkable degree of consistency and quality.  The glassy, undulating drones found on most of his albums possess tastefully emotive melodic hints, and a pleasant hollow transparency.  "Interiors", his latest release, is roughly 40 minutes of sparse atmospheres, organized into 3 longform pieces, all over 10 minutes in length.

Fazio is ever the proponent of sparsitude, and this album is no exception, using gestural samples from vintage vinyls to punctuate a slow textural ebb and flow.  The layering of sounds is never dense; Fazio typically draws the listener's attention completely to each element before moving to the next.  The resonant tones are sometimes recognizable as guitar sourced, or sourced from amplifier feedback, and elsewhere are clearly rhythmically modulating synthesizers.  A swirl of liquid chorus and overtone interplay spins in irregular patterns about the soundspace, utilizing stereo panning in a way most guitar players would never think to.

The samples used feel misplaced in our modern era, and this seems intentional.  The album opens with a few bars of jazz, before the needle is roughly scratched away from the music and one of Fazio's characteristic drones swells in its place.  Other samples include dialogue from old films, and due to the phrases chosen, these lend a somber, lonely and dejected tone to the entire album.  Phrases like "It ends in death", "What I think doesn't matter" or "It simply wears out" are repeated, and each time their effect intensifies.  Elsewhere, the samples are placed in order, like an ongoing monologue, "Where am I?",  followed by "Why did I come here?  I must've had something on my mind...".  One that particularly sticks in my brain is "Innocent people can get into terrible things too".  The use of voice samples reminds me of the work of Scanner, who also has a hushed, detached loneliness present in all of his output.

The most memorable segment on the album is Fazio's extended guitar solo in the 2nd track, "The Slow Night.  The Scented Room.  The Outside In".  Amidst the hushed ambient quiet of the rest of the record, the initial entrance of the guitar is jarring, but a welcome change.  Fazio's guitar actually feels a bit too restrained, emotionally, relying on scalar blues licks and percussive twangs where a gushing torrent of melodicism might be more appropriate.  After all, this track is backed by a haunting chord progression from the synth, a very forlorn sounding thing, and the guitar playing here never quiet lives up to the potential of this.  Parts of Fazio's solo are fantastic, but I think he should have cut it down and used only a section of it.

In conclusion, this is a loosely organized and sad recording, and though it has its merits, it's certainly not my favorite of Fazio's work.  The deeply depressive tone puts me off from playing it in the background in a daily capacity, and though I respect the sampling as an artistic decision, I must admit I'd get a lot more enjoyment from the album if the samples were absent.  The samples largely remove the emotional ambiguity of the drones, and it's quite a wallowing feeling the album has, one that provides little catharsis and no solution to the problem.  The 2nd track in particular also gets a bit meandering, and does not use time efficiently.  I found similarly slow paced tracks from Fazio's A Guide for Reason project to be immersive and complete; perhaps the textures found on those tracks were less easily identifiable and familiar to me.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Josh Landry
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