A Guide For Reason - XXV - XXVI [Faith Strange - 2020]Experimental soundscape guitarist Mike Fazio has quietly self-released countless recordings on his Faith Strange label for decades now. Continuing a tradition of numerically titled releases, XXV - XXVI is another texturally rich chapter of the Mike Fazio narrative, under perhaps my favorite of his many aliases, A Guide For Reason. The album, at forty minutes in length, contains two pieces, twenty minutes each, with lengthy, descriptive titles. The first is "I Didnt Like Having To Explain To Them, So I Just Shut Up, Smoked A Cigarette, And Looked At The Sea".
We begin with thick, resonant drones, portentious and vast like the thunderous shaking of a landing spacecraft. the palette is more synthetic than usual this go round, perhaps, as there is no way this crisp, penetrating saw tone could emerge from a guitar. It bears the characteristic timbral qualities of FM synthesis (common in genres like dubstep and psytrance), its internal harmonic structure modulating hypnotically. The tones swell in and out of filtration as if blown by wind. The pure, electrified circuit texture feels very physical and analogue, and I think must have emerged from some kind of hardware, perhaps a modular synthesizer. The mind expanding minimalism of this track recalls classic drone albums like Coil's Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil and Time Machines. After some thirteen minutes, the rich tone begins to fragment into stuttering clusters that 'ping' percussively as they drag into a swampy sluggishness. For the remaining minutes, there is only a cold shadow of a hum left, not unlike the tone created by a powered on amplifier. All in all, one of Fazio's simplest pieces, but richly produced, and not unsatisfying.
The focus on resonant drones continues in the second piece, "Now The Only Moral Value Is Courage, Which Is Useful Here For Judging The Puppets And Chatterboxes Who Pretend To Speak In The Name Of The People". This track is something of a volatile system that explodes into dissonant high frequency feedback on occasion amidst a murky plodding pulse created by a soft filtered pluck. This piece is less satisfying than the first, dwelling as it does in a detuned, anxiety inducing and confused dissonant space, with occasionally eruptions of lacerating harshness. I also feel the process of the piece's creation is too transparent and basic, with a short sequence repeating for the full 20 minutes as Fazio modulates a few simple parameters like filter and feedback. The central 'pluck' of the track is given a bit of transient chirp first, then a kind of dubby chordal glow, which sounds pleasant enough, but ultimately the track feels overlong, and like a loosely directed, unedited jam.
The latest A Guide For Reason release XXV - XXVI is a bit of a departure for Fazio into minimalist, purely electronic drone music, resulting in an album with some lovely tones here and there, but also a sense of being perhaps too bare bones for its own good, as there is rarely more than a single layer of sound, gradually morphing. I find myself missing the playful collage variety and rhythmic free-ness of his many other recordings when locked within the strobing, monophonic pulsation of this albumJosh Landry