Bill Nace - One Note (Solo Guitar 2) LP (Open Mouth, 2021)
Solo Guitar 2 was recorded by Bill Nace in 2008, in a good-sounding room in Bennington, Vermont.
"This year the record, originally released as a now (nearly) extinct cassette, is reissued without its mysterious and (maybe?) long-lost sibling Solo Guitar 1 (Like any good punk demo -- which, both aesthetically and energetically, Solo Guitar 2 is -- the thrill of discovery is made only sweeter by the potential of future discovery).
The vinyl release comes a little less than a year after Bill’s first “official” solo record, BOTH, which was released by Drag City in May, 2020. The two records don’t necessarily stand in opposition, but they are at different points on the spectrum of production, tone, mood, time, place, age, career. Where BOTH is softened by the warmth and precision of a studio, there’s a wildness to Solo Guitar 2 which approaches the experience of witnessing Bill perform live.
Made up of mostly brief pieces -- songs, practically -- Solo Guitar 2 winds tight, then unwinds, or sometimes snaps apart. Crackling, itchy static morphs into heavy, watery vibration, layered on metallic rattle. There are moments where that Bennington room sounds as sterile and lonely as a deserted art gallery. And then it becomes spacious and warm, like a cathedral filling with the hum of the universe.
The bulk of Bill’s releases are collaborations with other artists, who are drawn to him (at least in part) because he’s an innovative player and a deep listener. Those qualities hold, and in certain ways intensify when he’s on his own. As he takes a series of unlikely tools across his prone guitar with the grace and urgency of someone at a loom or an aircraft control panel, there’s a sense of reaching inward. But where some might meander or navel-gaze, Bill’s playing is a process of constant dynamic construction. What unfurls can feel intensely personal, and often -- for reasons I don’t always understand -- very moving. Bill isn’t interested in micromanaging his listeners’ experiences, but he does make room for us.
Composer Pauline Oliveros observed that when we listen deeply to the world around us, we sometimes notice very subtle and quiet differences in sounds that we thought were familiar. As a result, she writes, “the slightest difference may lead you to a new creative relationship.”
Bill is, I think, tuned in to these subtle and quiet differences. But, in a truly punk fashion, he flips this for the listener, making unfamiliar and not-very-subtle noise into something akin to (but also distinct from) familiar sounds: traffic outside your window, the soft roar of a conch shell to your ear, static between radio stations. Solo Guitar 2, full as it is of shades and moods and life, offers a fresh way of hearing." -Margaret Welsh, Philadelphia 2021