In a recent Guitar Player feature, Tim Brady jokes about the fact that Brahms never wrote stuff for electric guitar, ironically justifying a relentless quest for the instrument’s potential residency in the empire of commonly accepted “serious” music. This double set — part of an ongoing series — is an intriguing proposition in that sense. On a compact disc lie six of the twenty-four Frames; on the DVD the same compositions (“for electric guitar, electronics, samples, multitrack technology and video”) are accompanied by Martin Messier’s experimental imagery, which comprise computerized abstraction and disfigurement of relatively normal films, such as a woman walking with difficulty in a snowy town.
Brady recorded all the parts himself, a herculean task that — in his words — sometimes requires years just to find the right tone for a short cut. Unluckily, the artistic consequence of this sort of agony is only partially agreeable. Chilly linear materials and pitilessly pitch-transposed counterpoints summon up a combination of frozen heaven and dissonant hell, ultimately negating a definite position to the work. Think of a motorized King Crimson zombie to have an idea of the totally bloodless interlocking of different lines, sporadically escorted by peripheral undercurrents. Angular arpeggios, overdriven alien themes, plucked clusters and the obsessive repetitiveness generated by dozens of superimposed axes are perceived as rather conventional anomalies that don’t enlarge our database for this field, resulting interesting in spurts — and utterly unemotional.
Where the Canadian really excels is in the creation of atmospheric sonorities and breathtaking milieus. Massive booming, enigmatic suspensions, evocative plateaus where the possibilities of a treated source are multiplied until the starting sound grows into a monster capable of killing, but also striking points of marvelous resonance, stunning us for a few seconds. Too bad that those dreams are often broken by the recurrence of a cerebral kind of assault that situates the record in the infinite archive of “over-average-yet-unmemorable” releases, in total disproportion to the incontestable compositional effort.