orchestramaxfieldparrish - A Midsummer's Night [Faith Strange - 2017]A Midsummer's Night, released in 2016, is three years later still the most recent work from avant-ambient guitarist Mike Fazio's orchestramaxfieldparrish alias. Like all of Fazio's music, it is self released on his own Faith Strange label in a limited edition, an edition of 100 copies in this case. As a long time fan of Fazio's experimental guitarscapes, I am honored to own a copy.
The liner notes describe these pieces as 'music for prepared guitar & treatments', except for the last piece, which uses a piano. Fazio's digital processing transforms the guitar into a refined etheric mist, an unreal smooth momentum of astral dimensions. His plucks are stuttered and finely sliced into thousands of glittering granular beads, artificially charged with color and tone. The peak of brightness and volume near the end of opener "Head to Heart" is an exhilarating white rush of resonance, a manic thrill of godlike delusion.
As always, Fazio is content to dwell within free rhythm space, to emerge from the opacity of silence and then retreat back into it, to faintly tint the air of the space but leave it transparent. From swell to swell we move, happening at times upon chords and discordant shrouds. The rattling of strings is occasionally audible, but rarely a clear pluck or the punctuated beginning of a note, as this would disrupt the fluid glide of its unfolding.
Passages of his music come close to the lush compositions of melancholic classical ambient masters like Kyle Bobby Dunn or Stars of the Lid, who similarly utilize processed acoustic instruments. However, these artists favor gradually unfolding structured melodies in their work, and Fazio's tendency is toward a kind of exploratory anarchy, a continuous testing of the abyssal waters, a divination technique from which entities of ambiguous, asymmetric form emerge.
By the third piece, we've completely left the realm of recognizable guitar playing, and the sound is a howling solar wind, a metallic billowing with such a crisp, subtlely dimensioned layering that I would swear it was acoustic in nature. Further into the dreamlike and farther from the familiar, this point in the album is the deepest of night where emotions have distorted under the crushing weight of vertiginous currents.
The glittering blackness of lengthy closer "It Just Is" is truly nightmarish, an expression of fear and smallness in the face of all consuming vacuum. Perhaps a pessimistic ending, I am struck by Fazio's uninhibited spirit of embracing darkness. Snaking, smoking and eerie, this is certainly the most difficult piece on the album.
Fazio has surely stepped up his trademark methods of composition for this album, one of the most starkly vibrant and expressive of his career. His gift for morose melody is more thoroughly employed here, one of his most focused and directed feeling sets. While free association remains the core of his approach, I can really feel the emotional drive behind the choices he made for this album.
Now to track down the newest full lengths from his A Guide for Reason and Mike Fazio aliases!Josh Landry