Julia Reidy – Beholder

Julia Reidy - Beholder, black and white photo of the artist sat on a bench in a park.

Julia Reidy’s intense, guitar-driven music blazes a trail along the less-travelled roads of the fretboard. Switching between a clear-as-day transparency and a wild tempest’s cluster of clashing and densely populated notes, her music is a constant surprise, bringing something medieval out of its withered and twisted shell and into the radiant light of a more experimental type of instrumental music. Beholder was born on the Greek island of Syros and came to completion in Tokyo and Berlin, where Reidy now resides.

On Beholder (Room40), the Australian’s music stuns and hypnotizes, breathing out scorching plumes of fire and scooped speech balloons of black smoke, billowing out of the sound hole. Her guitar playing is, of course, a physical act – playing any instrument requires the use and willing submission of the body – but this physicality can actually be felt inside the music, the strings rattling with a sharp ferocity as they clang and scream on her opener, ‘Imminently’. The second track, ‘Syros’, has a completely different feel, beginning like a meditation with its manipulated chimes and its softer guitar repetitions. Although the tempo is quick, the rate of change is a slow, deep breath.

Melding her guitar playing with a set of field recordings and electronics, Reidy’s instrumental music is unlike anything else out there, especially when so much of the guitar’s music is restricted to the first four frets. The guitar has an unlimited number of possibilities, so it seems a strange thing for so many to fall into a set of claustrophobic boxes and insular patterns. The musical capabilities are there, waiting for the musician to enter.

Reidy is passionate about expanding the guitar’s tonal range. She is a channel: muscularity and physicality enter the music through her playing. She steps outside of the sound, which is less a disconnecting and more a gentle observing. This side-step, this trance-like distancing, actually brings her and her audience closer to the music.

Echo-bubbles, trapped distortions and lacerating tones help to shape a vibrant and diverse world on ‘Jfai’, contrasting an unending guitar solo that would be thoroughly exhausting if it weren’t for the emerging bubbles of electronic sound, sending life-giving oxygen through the music’s veins. As a result, the guitar’s unceasing riffing is never in danger of suffocating the track, of blocking out the sunshine, and the four instrumental pieces burn brightly. The fifteen-minute closer and title track moves at light speed, too. Beholder’s strings clank together and weld deep friction burns with zen-like meditations.

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Julia Reidy

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