The influential acoustic guitar supergroup The Guitar Trio, comprised of John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Paco Lucia were once described as "shredding harder than a Hendrix solo" in reference to their masterful live album Friday Night In San Francisco.
When you think of three bearded gentlemen playing Spanish, flamenco, and classical guitar, "shredding hard" is not exactly the first descriptor that comes to mind. That stands to change, once you've heard the delicate fingerpicking and churning strums of acoustic guitar quartet Once Guitars.
Once Guitars is a contemporary instrumental guitar quartet from Rosario, Argentina. They've run the gamut from Bartok to The Beatles over the course of their career. They bridge the gap of the guitar's Spanish origins and contemporary neoclassicism, experimenting with alternate tunings, effects and unusual repertoires. This is no pop orchestra, however, no polite Putumayo Flamenco sampler to put on and forget (although it functions quite nicely as background music). Turn it up and pay attention, however, and you'll be transported with the gentle, crystalline harmonics, the lavishly layered melodies and intricate harmonies, as well as the finely tuned orchestration that comes from working with a seasoned bunch of highly trained classical performers and improvisers.
Once Guitars plays classic classical guitar in a proggy, metallic way - like with the furious flurries of “Turbulencia," which sounds like nothing so much as King Crimson's "Thela Hun Jinjeet" by way of Andres Segovia. They delve into more traditional classical territory with “Reason" creepy-crawling like a harpsichord in some Victorian drawing room. Once Guitar's classicism never becomes quaint or precious, however, as the Baroque meanderings are underpinned with gradually falling chord changes, giving the overall structure an unsettled edge, like a house built on quicksand. At times, they sound like a classy bossa nova jazz outfit with album opener "River Flow,” impressive in its intricacies - layers and layers of stacked harmonic melodies, making "River Flow" full-bodied and robust as an Argentine Pinot noir. Then there's the dot matrix minimalism of “Robot," which might be the sound of a killer guitar robot army created by Dr. Wiley for mass hypnosis.
Anyone with any kind of yen for masterful instrumental guitar music needs to hear Como el Agua immediately! From Segovia to John Fahey to Buckethead to Andrew York to art rocker Jim O' Rourke, Once Guitars manages to synthesize the entire trajectory of adventurous six string opuses. Metalheads and indie rockers, jazz hounds and blues aficionados will all find some trill or riff to thrill their nerves and delight their bones! Once Guitars also inspires the instrumentalists out there to step up their game. It's metal, minus the aggro; it's prog, minus the pretension. It's indie, it's emotional, it's beautiful, it's heartfelt. Once Guitars helps us to imagine a world where classical music and jazz are injected with some high octane nitroglycerine and some much-needed muscle and grit, revitalizing each in its turn.
Como el Agua from Once Guitars is pure class! Inspiring and adventurous in the extreme, Once Guitars makes you want to pull out your acoustic and get to practicing!
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