Ex-Easter Island Head – Mallet Guitars One
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Album Of The Week: ‘Mallet Guitars One’ is the debut release by Ex-Easter Island Head; a Liverpool based ensemble comprised on this record of three solid bodied electric guitars and two performers.
The record is three movements of shimmering drones, ghostly overtones and sustained consonances elicited through gradually changing rhythmic patterns played on the body of horizontally mounted guitars with percussion mallets. Utilizing repetition, resonance and amplification, the music of Ex-Easter Island Head is poised between minimalist austerity and sonic density.
Recorded live in the cavernous roof space of a listed neo-classical church, the minutiae of three fixed chords are magnified by the resonant architecture of the building. Forming an ever-changing surface over an unmoving centre, overtones are amplified and different timbres generated by changing percussive patterns, creating a soundscape that is immersive and organic. – LOW POINT
The tracks in question are an interesting amalgam of a number of vibrant harmonic elements, all of which gel without effort. It’s easy to imagine how this could go drastically wrong in incapable hands, but due to clever mixing and a simple approach the whole project flows well and leaves the listener wanting more.
The three tracks are a little on the short side at under five minutes each, but that’s a blessing as the ideas are fleshed out sufficiently and don’t outstay their welcome; they’re perfectly suited to the length of the one side of twelve inch vinyl they fill.
The overall effect is interesting – the undertone of electric guitar hum that the instruments generate when struck provides a subtle drone, while the percussive tones of the mallets provide a groove and melody. The guitars appear to have been aligned in complimentary tunings or chords, so the art/noise element that might automatically spring to mind is thankfully not present – all pieces are surprisingly melodic. You can dispel any notion of chimps, bones and rocks a la 2001, this is a mature exercise, and not guitar bashing.
The audio engineering is notably effective in its lack of any discernable production trickery. I’m sure the project would have lit up multiple possibilities in any sound engineer’s mind (“Delay! Reverse double tracking! Chorus! Flanger!”), but the end result is delivered in very well miked room recordings with wide stereo separation. The natural reverb of the environment it was recorded in is very apparent, and not overplayed. This authentic approach is ultimately the best way it could have been presented, and special mention goes to the person that blended together the guitar signal, as it’s the unsung hero of the exercise.
“Mallet Guitars One” (LP039) by Ex-Easter Island Head is released on single sided 12” vinyl LP on 29th November 2010 – pre-orders are available on the Low Point website as of now.
- Review by Alex Gibson for Fluid Radio