Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

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P.G. Six and Intuitive Virtuosity

March 31, 2010

p.g. six


It’s fair to say that I listen to the music of Pat Gubler, who records solo material under the P.G. Six name, as frequently as the output of any other artist.  Obviously, there are those I hold in higher regard, and there are those who I pay more lip service to.  I’m not about to spend my time taking Gubler’s singularly eerie and comforting recordings and holding them toe-to-toe with, say, Tom Waits’s artistry.  Let’s be honest–that would be unfair.  What I do want to point out is the absolutely arresting and enveloping atmosphere Gubler is consistently able to conjure up.  In my five years of listening to P.G. Six and Tower Recordings (his previous primary concern, a collaboration with another gut-level, if considerably messier, songwriter in Matt Valentine), I have never once gotten tired of dipping into his entirely submersive sound.

The way he achieves his highly distinctive aura is by striking a balance between restraint and filligree, affording every instrument played and every line sung a finely wrought sense of craft.  This isn’t just me trying to squeeze out pretty words, here: P.G. Six’s songs ultimately set themselves apart with a clear sense of deliberate consideration.  It’s this sense that Gubler truly cares and has a clear, lovingly rendered goal in mind that helps make the first 5 1/2 minutes of “Quiet Fan for SK,” a cut off 2001’s Parlor Songs and Porch Favorites which consists of nothing but Gubler’s distracted, sparse guitar playing, an arresting, intimate moment, and not a mess of pointless meandering.  Of course, when that song finally opens up, patience is awarded with a quietly gorgeous–and carefully considered–unfolding.

This sense of craft is no less in effect when Gubler hews closer to traditional song structure.  The detail on the two-minute “The Divine Invasion,” also on Parlor Songs, is very reserved, but again, the muffled drumming and bits of reversed guitar seem like carefully mulled-over choices, and they contribute a rich and comforting depth to the song.

Even when Gubler shared songwriting duties with Valentine in Tower Recordings, his contributions proved uncommonly inviting and introspective, especially for what is allegedly largely improvised music.  His distinctievly nimble yet hypnotic guitar picking and languid voice are in full effect on “Ibiza Within You,” off of 2004’s The Galaxies’ Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings.  These typically Gublerian elements, welded to the busy clatter and clutter associated with the Tower Recordings, make for one of my favorite songs of all time.

I’m writing a lot, but I might not be getting exactly what I want to say across.  Here it is: there is an inherently reassuring element to the way P.G. Six plays his instruments.  After all, plenty of obsessed studio wizards sweat over every detail and make music that leaves me cold.  In a way, it’s the sense that Gubler actually approaches songcraft intuitively, somehow knowing on a basal level what will work and what doesn’t, that draws me to him.  This is the “intuitive virtuosity” I referred to in the title of this piece.  There’s something deeply beautiful and warming to this thought: a man picks up a guitar and, without thinking, pulls finely rendered genius out of it.


I’ll be posting discussions of P.G. Six’s first two song-based albums, Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites and The Well of Memory, soon.  Maybe I’ll also write a little bit about why his most recent effort, Slightly Sorry, was such a let-down.  (Edit, 4/23/10: I obviously did, and it is a little more than “a little bit.”  Oops!)  But I don’t want this space to be excessively negative, especially to someone whose music means so much to me overall.

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Charlemagne Palestine – Continuous Sound Forms

March 27, 2010

charlemagne-palestine-continuous-sound-formsCharlemagne Palestine’s Continuous Sound Forms might be a somewhat surprising lead-off post for a psychedelic music blog, but I don’t consider it too much of a stretch.  After all, this music–immersive, hypnotic, and droning–certainly has more than its fair share of psych signifiers.

This recording is a compilation of two different performances.  The first consists of three excerpts from a dual harpsichord session, which certainly has its moments.  However, both the choice of instrumentation and the stark rigidity of the composition itself tends to leave me cold, and it’s definitely not what moved me to begin writing this.

The motivation for that belongs to the second piece here, a 1972 performance entitled “Piano Drone.”  A more generous exercise in classical minimalism does not come to mind.  What we have here is brilliantly luminescent clusters of sound, a clear-eyed and generous space that inhabits the intersection between Lubomyr Melnyk’s torrential cascade of notes and LaMonte Young’s stoic mysticism.

I already used the word, but what I really want to point out and emphasize here is the generosity of this recording.  I mean, we can be frank here: to give an entirely cynical, negative, and closed-minded reading, “Piano Drone” is 22 minutes of highly repetitive meandering on a piano.  An argument can be made that very little actually happens here.  And yet, being fair to Charlemagne Palestine, it’s fairly easy to get lost going down the deliberate, hypnotic, and inviting path that this piece takes.  After a delicate intro, trills and currents of notes begin to slowly but definitely coalesce, forming, at their thickest, a rich haze of interlocked melody.  At its deepest, “Piano Drone” becomes an absolute pleasure to listen to closely. I never get tired of teasing apart threads of tone and observing the place of each in this dense weft.

Even at its most complex, the piece is still harmonious, with any dissonance only alluded to and never engaged.  “Piano Drone” concludes as delicately as it begins, with individual runs of melody wisping away into the perfumed air.

I know, I know, overwrought critical language.  But engaging this kind of studied beauty practically demands it.  Plus, the “wisping”/”perfumed” air thing is at least somewhat literal.  Though this performance is not ambient, it closely hews to that genre as defined by Brian Eno: this is music that can completely diffuse into the background, filling out the space of whatever room it’s played in.  And yet, when stopped abruptly, the ensuing silence is both deafening and somewhat unwelcoming, a testament to the pervasive goodwill of “Piano Drone.”  It’s a learned piece, but it’s beyond that: it’s beautiful, inviting music.

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An Intro to Play One Note

Well, hello, everyone.  I’m glad you all have joined us here on this, our christening.  Play One Note is a psychedelic music blog that employs the operative term “psychedelic” with an extremely wide brush.

God, that sentence sucked.

I’m Tom.  I’ll let Chris do his introduction if he wants to.  Basically, we’re two dudes in Austin who worship texture, drone, and the occasional thunderous, mind-melting riff, and we’re going to use this space to explain why we’re so into this stuff.  Speaking for myself, I’m a big fan of awe and sincerity, and that’s what I’ll focus on with my writing in here.  What’s more, though I occasionally adopt an irreverent tone, I’m pretty serious about this stuff.  I respect music with a psychedelic bent more than anything else.  I thrive on contemplative ruminations, staggeringly epic crescendos, and druggy hypnosis.  My goal is to try to explain why, by writing about some of my favorite albums, new and old.

There’s a couple things I’m not going to try to do with Play One Note.  One is to try to be a crate-digger.  My attention span is too short, my appreciation for all music too manic, to focus on one specific genre with any sort of authority.  If I tried to pigeonhole myself, I would, in all likelihood, quickly lose interest with the blog.  We don’t want that!

Another thing I’m not particularly interested in doing (or equipped to do) is being a barometer of exclusively contemporary music.  I can’t keep up.  I cherish competent, carefully considered music writing, and I can’t reconcile trying to do that while constantly trying to ride the wave of what’s on the horizon.  I’m not big into knowing more about what’s coming out than the next guy, and to try to force that on myself for the purposes of Play One Note would, well, kinda suck.

What I will do is write about artists and albums that I consider “psychedelic” and that I truly, simply, love.  And, as you’ll see, my definition of psychedelia is, generally speaking, wider than most.  Maybe, one day, I’ll tackle that concept itself.


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