Blastitude, June 8 2007
Foxy Digitalis, July 24 2007
White Heat, July 2007



Blastitude, June 8 2007

Great split LP of solo guitar from the Belgium-based Glasvocht label, with Harris Newman (from Montreal, Quebec) on the A side, and Mauro Antonio Pawlowski (from Belgium) on the B. This is my introduction to Newman, having missed his opening set at a Six Organs of Admittance show back in March 2005. During the Six Organs set, Chasny called him "the future of acoustic guitar," and now over two years later I can finally see why. First track is an instant grabber, Newman laying down an unstoppable spooky bluesy theme which he proceeds to stop, restart, lead slowly into strange dead ends, stop again for uncomfortable silences in haunted echo chambers, restart again right back into the thick of it, somehow constantly developing it for over 10 minutes while still keeping it stuck in the same place. The title, "Onset of Tourette's," hints at what's going on, as if the song is a close examination of how a motif can become a tic. The remaining two tracks are also excellent compositions, one short and bluesier, the other sounding like a slower, more focused, and way intense reprise of "Tourette's." Really, a perfect album side. The Pawlowski side makes me think of a friend of mine who was getting to know free improvisational music. He thought Derek Bailey and a few others ruled, but he could never really get deeper into the genre. "I wanna like it," I remember him saying, "but it always ends up sounding like guys playing their instruments funny." And he meant it like 'funny peculiar', I guess. I never really agreed with him, but I can't help but think about his statement when going from the experimental but deeply idiomatic music of Harris Newman to the more quirky, atonal, and decidedly non-idiomatic music of Mauro Pawlowski on the flip. The good news is Mauro seems well aware that this music is funny peculiar, because he plays short pieces (ten in all) with titles like "The Emperor's Shy Bladder," "The Paranormal Olympics Cancelled," and "The Last Living Beatle." He has a nice humming and spooky guitar tone too, not unlike Newman's, and the end result is a pleasantly surrealist style that he calls "ethnical Belgian improvisation music." -- Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

Foxy Digitalis, July 24 2007

Belgian CDR label Glasvocht's first vinyl offering is an odd, and often gorgeous glimpse into the minds of two very distinct acoustic guitar artisans, Harris Newman and Mauro Antonio Pawlowski. Newman's numerous instrumental releases have attracted consistent praise from countless journalists over the last several years. Like fellow contemporary acoustic-guitar masters James Blackshaw and Jack Rose, Newman's musical efforts have been compared, quite favorably, to the seminal work of the late "American Primitive" acoustic-guitar-deity, John Fahey. Three tracks fill this 12" split's top side, commencing with the withdrawn, placid "Early Onset Tourette's." Across this track, cloudy, gently composed acoustic notes dance delicately through a thickened electric drone underfoot, like calloused feet sliding gracefully over a thick, muddy tract of swampland. Guttural reverb and gently aged burlap drones adorn Newman's porch-top acoustic finger picking. This formula is hardly revolutionary, but that doesn't seem to matter. Even over the course of eleven minutes, the same basic melody, occasionally shuffled, keeps fresh, constantly expanding and soaking in crisp torrents of reverberation. "Sit Down, Stay Down" is a welcome and rousing kick in the pants, following the lengthy, laid-back stringy mind-crawler, "Tourettes." This lively composition feels like a cold splash of water in the face, a welcome stretch, following the former track's weighty atmospherics. Haloed in that homey, dirt road blues sound, Newman's blitzkreig of strings during this brief track is the nearest he get's to Fahey's own work. Newman closes with "Son of Ichabod," a return to the earlier acoustic atmospheric ambience, and a pleasant piece, but tasting a bit stale towards the tail end.
Unlike Newman, Pawlowski seems intent on presenting more challenging work. Knots of rusty, out-of-tune, shrill guitars carve their way through the split's B side. Amplified acoustic and electric guitars fill the sound-stage, but Pawlowski's sound is world's from Newman's ambient adorned finger-picking acoustics, instead favoring a chaotic, nervous spazz-jam. Improvisation is clearly a big part of Pawloski's work here; each song sounds like the barely coherent scribblings of an over-medicated schizophrenic hipster. Electric fuzz, feedback loops, out of tune instrumentation and stream of consciousness composition make these songs difficult to swallow. Despite this chaotic setting, moments of real beauty often force their way to the surface, above the almost impenetrable confusion draped over every song. These moments veer abruptly off course though, just as they seem to be heading towards some comfortable and predictable path. "The Awakening of Animals" is one such example of this structure, opening peacefully, like some gentle electric-folk love-note, until a single is missed. Following this slip, the track begins to swarm hastily around that missed beat, swirling into a mob of off-tunes, cannibalizing itself like a pack of primitive hunters abandoning its prey, turning instead on one of their own wounded in pursuit. Vocals appear first on "The Shadowgraph," sharing many qualities with the out-of-tune instrumentals. Atmospheric, nondescript and rubbery, alongside the guitar, Pawlowski's voice acts like a sort of sandstorm of sound. Without any clearly distinguishable features, its hard to get a grasp on these songs. Glasvocht themselves compare Pawlowski's solo work to Derek Bailey, a more fitting comparison than anything I was coming up with. The less serious tone here, though, leaves these tracks sounding stream-of-consciousness, rough drafts, in opposition to Bailey's finely honed guitar insanity. Alluring as savage energy and nervous, unfettered composition can be in recordings, these 10 songs just feel a bit like a lumpy mattress. Comfortable spaces can be found, but it's just too difficult to every really get settled in.
Besides their choice of instrumentation, these two artists don't seem to share a whole lot of common ground. Newman's topside is a familiar blend of Fahey-inspired acoustics, flanked by humid, atmospheric drones. On the flip-side, Pawlowski's contributions are loose, stream-of-consciousness musical ramblings, well represented their humorous nonsense titles, like "The Emperor's Shy Bladder" and "The Last Living Beatle." The pair seem forced together on this split release, with little shared vision, and probably very different audiences. Newman's sound doesn't differ enough from Pawlowski's that it feels uncomfortable or absurd, but unfortunately this split also doesn't result in the sum of its parts. Even if the release sounds unbalanced to my ears, the individual efforts of each are undoubtedly worthy of praise. 6/10 -- Sean Herman

White Heat, July 2007

On the Belgian Glasvocht-label comes this new split album between Harris Newman (Triple Burner) and Mauro, both remarkable guitarists in their own field. The record presents a fine collection of guitar experiments, covering the more classic raga-guitar playing (Newman), as well as dark guitar improvisation (Pawlowski).
The first three tracks are Newman's. He shows how his droney ragastyle can hypnotize the listener, by offering the same theme again and again (Early Onset Tourette's, Son of Ichabod). It's a well-known recipe and it's quite unnecessary to refer to the likes of John Fahey or Six Organs of Admittance's Ben Chasney, but Newman manages effectively to sound fresh. The third song is a light, rather short and not very interesting excursion into the fingerpicking guitarplaying. Newman's contribution is fascinating and holds our attention quite effectively.
The words 'fresh' nor 'light' can be used when talking about Mauro's half of the album. Pawlowski has played in several bands and collectives, with dEUS and Evil Superstars being the more well-known ones, at least in Belgium. Yet, there's also a less-known experimental guitarist hidden in Pawlowski. He has recorded some intruiging improvised music with the belgian breakcore kid Sickboy as Mauro and the Parallels. This aspect of his output is less-known, but deserves nevertheless all our attention.
On this record, Mauro has done all he can to make his guitar sound as sick and filthy as possible, and we have to admit, it works surpisingly well. Mauro plays ten improvised guitar pieces, more or less two minutes each. Yet, after ten songs, you haven't got a clue as to where to frame this music: it's a black, inpenetrable mass without a way in.
The music is as bizarre as Scott Walker's latest record The Drift, both albums sharing a common atonal, radical idiosyncrasy. The little pieces of singing only strengthen this and make us wonder where he would bring us musically when given a similar strength as Walker had on his magnificant 2006 album. Mauro also reminds us of another belgian guitarist, Ignatz. The bluesy and depressing atmosphere are not lost on us. Inevitable not to mention the legendary Derek Bailey, whose spirit constantly seem to wander around in this music.
This split album is well worth checking out. The fine lay-out combined with two interesting guitarists make for a challenging listening experience. -- Maarten



VPRO Zeldzaam Dwars live session, February 2006

No Love For Ned, March 2005

BSR, April 2005

WFMU Triple Burner, December 2003

mp3 & downloadable sounds

Butcher's Block / Stopgap Measure
recorded live at WMBR, April 2 2005

Lords & Ladies
from Accidents with Nature and Each Other

Triple Burner live on WFMU recorded December 4th 2003

Brainwashed Eye interview and performance clips