A Guide For Reason – Godman – from the album Iconography on Faith Strange

REVIEWS:

from textura:

Mike Fazio’s artistic journey continues, with this time the guitarist / sound sculptor making two albums available under different names. Consistent with the artist credit and album title, Interiors is an intimate portrait that reveals much of Fazio’s personality, whereas the third A Guide For Reason release feels more like the sound of Fazio exploring different possibilities in his home laboratory. Consistent with the past output of the master craftsman, both are treats for audiophiles, having been recorded and mastered with immense care and attention to detail (note that the first fifty copies of Iconography include a free download code for Interiors).

Recorded during 2010 and originally included in a private pressing of the four-CD box set Music From The Strange Box, Interiors isn’t fresh out of the box, so to speak, but it sounds no less fresh than had it been laid down yesterday. Armed with electric guitar, pedal steel, tapes, synthesizer, electronics, e-bow fretless bass, and 78-RPM records, Fazio presents three long-form settings of contrasting character and episodic design. A playful side surfaces in the opening moments of “The Start. The Shift. The Cleave.” when a half-minute sample of early-20th-century jazz appears before the needle lifts and the channel switches to guitar-based soundscaping. Time slows as gently swelling six-string washes spread themselves across the open fields, their creep so subtle as to seem imperceptible and distortion subtly seeping into some of the overall soundfield. The addition of synthesizer to “The Slow Night. The Scented Room. The Outside In.” gives the material a deep space dimension, while the clipped voice samples, evoking the cinematic character of a ‘50s detective mystery, alter the tone dramatically once again. The most striking thing about the piece, however, is the guitar playing, which offers a rare sampling of Fazio soloing. Eschewing effects, the bluesy playing feels extemporaneous, as if he’s responding spontaneously to the previously constructed backdrop. A brief sample of “Mood Indigo” ends the track, after which epic swirls of haze and mist in “The Unanswered. The Lost Words. The End.” plunge the listener even further into deep space. Worked into the arrangement is the voice of a scholarly elder pontificating on entropy and death, with one phrase in particular—“It wears out”—repeated over and over. Fazio’s self-described “collection of arcane scenarios” adds up to a striking and highly personalized portrait, each piece contributing something different to the listener’s impression.

If Interiors’ foundation is guitar more than anything else, Iconography shifts the focus to electronics and the simulation of explorative small group interaction. Fazio liberally stretches out on the recording’s four tracks, which are perfectly tailored for a double-vinyl format with three in the seventeen-minute ballpark and the fourth twenty-two. In the opening “Hero,” drums and bass lock into a fleet-footed krautrock groove that remains in place throughout, even if it does shape-shift and gradually merge with the mutating electronic elements within the piece. By contrast, “Heroin” eschews conventional bass-and-drum rhythms altogether, opting instead for a full-on foray into electronic experimentation—think seventeen minutes of trippy whirrs, warbles, and whooshes—before rhythm elements subtly sneak back in during the track’s second half. Dub-associated sound design also works its way into the recording, specifically at the end of track two, and Fazio changes things up even more by powering the third track “Goddess” with a funk groove, of all things (when, that is, it’s not being derailed by constant smatterings of electronic smears and ripples). Certainly the recording lives up to A Guide For Reason’s billing as “abstract, exploratory, and left-field” music; explorative in the extreme, it suggests some degree of affinity with the works of early electronic pioneers who allowed their pursuits to take them into the boldest of realms (Iconography’s final piece, “Godman,” is especially indicative of the tendency, despite the ethereal setting’s generally soothing tone). But, as interesting a listen as Iconography is and while it’s no doubt as personal a project for its creator as Interiors, it’s the latter that I’ll return to more often, largely because it offers a more guitar-oriented portrait of Fazio’s music-making.

August-September 2013

from a closer listen:

“This music has no purpose other than it is”, writes Mike Fazio of his musical guise A Guide For Reason. We wll be happy to amend that statement, because listeners may use this odd music for other purposes: relaxation, mood enhancement, the satisfaction of an avid curiousity. We imprint ourselves on our icons, transforming them into our projections, whether or not they care. (They don’t.) The bowler-topped figure on the cover may be worshipping a triangle, or an image of a triangle, or an imitation of the Eye of Horus, but his look of ownership and expectation (“Mine!”) is akin to that of a music collector who has just acquired a rare limited edition. Of course most hard copies are limited of late, but Iconography has an especially small run.

The third in an ongoing series that began with I-VI and continued with VII-VIII, Iconography is the first entry to bear a non-numerical title and is also the least abstract of the three. This does not, however, make it accessible. Four tracks, 75 minutes, no radio hits. And yet one can almost – almost – imagine edits of these tracks appearing in clubs, or even in the background of a Kanye West song. ”Hero” is beat-happy in such a way as to celebrate the beat, the rhythm, and the steadiness of sound, despite an early change in tempo. The track captures the pace and the purpose of a club hit without allowing its timbre to approach club status. It’s both a skeleton and an homage.

The more dronelike “Heroin” flirts with static and hum, daring listeners to find an access point. Yes, it seems to be saying, I could, but why? To paraphrase Fazio, “it is what it is”, and when it pivots mid-piece to hiss and clack, one thinks of a very miffed feline in a factory; but then, as if relenting, Fazio allows a brief series of beats to emerge. The final 2:59 seems to stand alone, looking back on the preceding minutes through synthesized eyes, judging with impunity. This isn’t the future, but an alternate present. Even when drums and bass emerge in “Goddess”, the listener stays suspicious, and these suspicions are rewarded when the rug is pulled from under the feet. The dance continues to the bitter end, with neither side gaining much traction. After the 22-minute closer has faded, the listener is left to wonder, “Could there really be no other purpose?” But of course there is: to prompt conversation about expectation and execution. Faith Strange is a perfect name for Fazio’s label, as his releases rest just on the periphery of understanding, icons in their own right. – Richard Allen

from Avant Music News:

A sprawling project slimmed down by an elegant solution. “Iconography” is the latest recording in an “ongoing abstract, exploratory and left-field” endeavour named A Guide For Reason, launched by American artist Mike Fazio in 2009 but rarely shared outside a small circle. This edition contains four lengthy tracks of amorphous, tentatively-searching electronica which, as the Faith Strange motto has it, “has no purpose other than it is”, which one supposes is existentially reasonable enough. Broadly ranging and never in a hurry, more perplexing than the almost altruistic and thoroughly engrossing “Élégie” of last year, “Iconography” will eventually find pressure points in the imagination of the right listener. For this one, it was the lambent ambience of the final track, “Godman”.

Accompanying the package is an insert upon which is printed the digital download code for the album “Interiors”, taken from a limited edition, four-disc set called “Music from the Strange Box”. It begins with the rude snatching of the tone arm off an amiable bit of antique jazz fluff, but in stark contrast to the tattered collages of “Iconography”, these tracks are guitar-based and focused, rough and smooth drones, late-night introspective vamp, swarming electric haze. There is a thread of pop culture nostalgia running through the samples, including quotes from forties noir B-movie The Dark Corner and what sounds like a very depressed philosopher or biologist resigned to the fact that all life just wears out, ends in death.

Past project music can be accessed from the Faith Strange website and future editions are promised.

Stephen Fruitman

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1 Comment

  1. This is an extraordinary piece!!!

    Reply

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