Published Mar 13, 2017Ambient works centred on the guitar have long had a unique quality. For all the flexibility offered by keyboards and samplers, the right axe in the right pair of hands can produce astonishing results. The way it vibrates, bends — even its shoulder-strap design that requires the player to hold it close — make it a more personal instrument than some give it credit for.
Chicago musician and visual artist Michael Vallera is a fine guitar player. On Vivid Flu, his second album and first for the impressive Denovali label, he's recorded five tracks of stylish industrial ambience. There's nothing particularly jarring, but it's a long way from the Durutti Column.
"Still Life" showcases Vallera's playing at its most ethereal, bright, but not soft. He maintains intensity over 10-plus minutes that demands attention. This does not belong in the background. "Late" is equally impressive, a fine example of Vallera's ability to layer grainy mechanical sounds over a shining, soft bed of guitar.
The juxtapositions are at the heart of what makes Vivid Flu a success. Vallera shoves different, sometimes opposing, sounds up against one another, and it works every time. (Denovali)