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Geoff Farina - Blobscape

Reviews

Tangmonkey

Three words? Instrumentals that murmur.

On Blobscape, Karate's Geoff Farina puts aside the rock, the roll, the empassioned lyrics and winsome delivery - he throws it all into a burlap sack, ties it with twine, and tosses it into the armoire. This isn't a solo singer-songwriter project in the vein of Jeff Tweedy or Stephen Malkmus. Blobscape is more in the vein of Herbie Hancock going out on his own, of Wynton Marsalis dismissing the Lincoln Center Orchestra and recording some avant garde jazz in his basement.

Blobscape is the collection of sixteen short instrumental pieces, each improvised by Farina at the "Narragansett Grange Hall, Wakefield, RI." There are no edits in the material, no overdubbing - this is solo electric guitar, all ambience and concentration. Farina's guitar murmurs with the same resonant intimacy as the guitar-work in Julie Doiron's recent material, but it's a much more sophisticated sound. These are not chewy math-rock attempts, nor the epic instrumental narratives of John Fahey. Though on "Chewable Resources", Farina's virtuosic fingerplaying carries him almost into the blues, he never quite makes it: these are streams-of-consciousness, easily diverted but never schizophrenic.

The opening strains of "Feign Elsewhere" explain what this disc is about, straight from the start. Irregular chords hang in the air, join their twins, love and lose. The arhythmic movement of notes sings out a 'Marco', while the listener's heart twinges a tactile 'Polo'. Still, this isn't an album that is easily appreciated: the compositions fade together - alike in sound, production, and their unpredictable jazz quality. Although the tracks diverge into slightly different styles (blues, avant jazz, Jansch-like baroque folk), Blobscape speaks more as mood music than as a series of discrete pieces. Listening calls for a grey afternoon or a sweltering night, for the body to be breathing at the same pace as the music. That's not to say that this is cry-into-pillows music - these aren't Nick Drake's dark compositions from Pink Moon - but Blobscape works best when you immerse yourself in it, rather than waiting for a particular musical moment to speak to you. Once you acclimatize yourself to the landscape of Farina's compositions, images begin to flutter out from between the chords. There is an ambiguous happiness towards the close of "Some Details," a distracted insolence in "Universal Indians," a suppressed pain in "Piss."

Blobscape is a record that must not be heard, but felt. As with most jazz, it requires a listener who will devote some time to its consumption, to its sensation. Geoff Farina demonstrates here a depth he's never before shown, an emotional breadth that is consistently affecting. Though Blobscape demands a particular time, a particular ear, its rewards are diverse and tactile. (Sean Michaels)

>>> tangmonkey.com


Splendid

One of the best parts of Blobscape is the quiet spaces between its songs. It's easy to read that comment the wrong way, so allow me to elaborate: when there are pauses -- be they the thin spaces within a song's movements, or the fat seconds between pieces -- you will find yourself wondering, "What's around the corner? What's next?"

While these songs have titles that suggest ersatz Radiohead songs ("Fake Mysterious Lisas") or Clarissa tracks ("Peanut Butter Faction"), they are pure, distilled mystery to me. I can sense the work involved in making them, but never comprehend a meaning. That's fine with me, as Blobscape opens up like very few records do these days. Turn it on at night, or after lunch, and you're given an entire array of available dreams upon which to float away.

Although part of my passion for this record -- nary a bracing moment in sight -- might put off other listeners, it's especially notable that the hushed intricacies of Farina's guitar playing never bore. I won't go so far as to say that I can recognize each of these songs from their first few chords, but they do stand apart, and seem to prove that much territory remains for musicians to explore, far away from breaking waves and sheltered from lightning.

-- Theodore Defosse

>>> splendidezine.com


babysue/LMNOP

A member of the bands Karate and Secret Stars, Geoff Farina is also a solo singer/songwriter. Blobscape, however, is somewhat of a departure for Mr. Farina in that it is a collection of solo guitar improvisation. Farina is damn good...his liquid fingers skitter and scrawl up and down the frets with endless ease...continually striking new peculiar chords and foraging in odd timing progressions. This is a very moody album...quite sparse overall...but the moods it evokes are awesome. Because of its obtuse nature, you probably won't be seeing or hearing much about this particular album...which is a shame...because it contains a wealth of heady and unique compositions. More than any other group of listeners, we would recommend this for jazz fans. Odd tracks like "Feign Elsewhere," "Fiction Part 1," "Hibye," and "Universal Indians" are mentally provocative and ultimately relaxing... (Rating: 5+)

>>> babysue.com


Delusions of Adequacy

Geoff Farina is a busy man. In addition to the albums he's released with the bands Karate and Secret Stars, he also is accumulating a respectable solo catalogue. Interestingly enough, as all of those bands evolve, one element stands out: that of Farina's jazzy, experimental guitar playing. It's clear in each of those projects that Farina is reaching, trying new things, playing for the sheer joy of the sounds he's able to make, and in the process his guitarwork gets better and more exciting.

This, then, may be the culmination of that development. Blobscape is not a real album, per se, but rather a collection of 16 pieces chosen out of more than 100 that were completely improvised. In the fall of 2001, Farina and Secret Stars collaborator Jodi Buonanno went to the Narragansett Grange Hall in Wakefield, RI, where Farina played and Buonanno painted, both working off the creative energy of the other. There were no changes made to this recording; Farina merely chose his 16 favorites.

Many critics have used words like "masturbatory" for Farina's self-indulgent guitar playing in the past, and those critics will absolutely hate this album, for it's perhaps the most self-indulgent of all. But rather than compiling minutes of guitar wanking, Farina is really trying to express himself through the instrument. For the most part, he succeeds on these 16 instrumental pieces. Taking a page from musicians like Charlie Parker and John Zorn, Farina allows the guitar to become the extension of his emotions and thoughts, and without other instruments or vocals to accompany, the guitar sounds really do shine on their own.

That's not to say that this is the easiest release to listen to. Forsaking traditional rock structure, these pieces are more solo compositions than songs, as Farina blends chords and notes with a light, quick hand. At times sounding a bit like noise, at others brilliant, chiming sounds, these pieces don't feel right on their own. Sure, they were picked out of more than 100, so they can't flow together, but I find myself checking the tracks and surprised at how many have passed without my realizing it. They do flow together, coherent in their own jazzy experimentation.

A few pieces stand out. The and jazzy "Slurpy" is a favorite and will sit well with fans of Farina's most recent solo album. "Chewable Resources" flows nicely around quick, almost classically played notes for a startling powerful feel, and it flows nicely into the title track, which really is the standout piece of experimental guitar. The quick progression on "Hibye" is impressive, while "Universal Indians" feels about as free-form as Farina ever gets. Some of the quieter songs, like "Piss," make this album a nice, calming late-night listen.

No, this album is not for everyone, and I won't be surprised if many critics pan it, but I find it a fascinating listen. This is music from the heart, played by a talented guitarist exploring his own abilities and inspiration. My only regret is the paintings by Buonanno done at the same time are not represented here in some way. It might help expand on the experience.

- Jeff

>>> adequacy.net


Basement Life

Love him or hate him, there's no use trying to dispute Geoff Farina's technical know-how when it comes to playing the guitar. Getting his start with the 1996 release of Karate's self-titled debut, Farina's supplied enough guitar wizardry to fill four Karate albums, the new Cancel/Sing EP, two solo discs and two Secret Stars records. The quality of his work has been consistently high, and he's displayed enormous growth as both a singer and a guitarist. The Karate frontman's most recent effort features only the latter aspect of his songwriting. His third solo outing, Blobscape is made up of 16 tracks (most of which clock in at a mere two minutes) worth of jazzy guitar improvisations picked from a group of around 100 recorded between August and November of 2001. The disc will silence anyone who doubted Farina's ability, although it will also serve to vindicate those who've long argued that his playing has become a little bit too wanky. Regardless, the "songs" that make up Blobscape are full of the kind of licks that anyone familiar with the guitar will immediately recognize as almost comically complex. If flat-out technical brilliance doesn't do anything for you, you'll still be able to take comfort in the soothing nature of Farina's playing. Farina's quietly become one of the most prolific writers in indie rock, and he's done so by making music that has pretty much nothing to do with indie rock. (Mike Conklin)

>>> basement-life.com


Pitchfork

Wakefield, Rhode Island... probably not what you'd consider the most inspirational setting for improvisational guitar recordings, right? Unless we're talking about what inspires Geoff Farina, co-founder of lo-fi pop duo the Secret Stars and frontman for jazz-addled indie rockers Karate. It's from these hundred-odd sessions in Naragansett Grange Hall (a living/working space Farina shares with fellow Secret Star Jodi Buonanno) that his latest effort, Blobscape, emerges. A classically trained musician, Farina's self-described influences and musical interests stretch from one extreme to the next. He's as likely to mention John Zorn as he is Charlie Parker: a few years back, he even picked Brand Nubian's One for All as a year-end fave. Blobscape, out this month on Kimchee, is Farina's first all-instrumental and his third solo effort. (Alexandra Chassanoff)

>>> pitchforkmedia.com


ENOUGH FANZiNE

You all know superheroes like Superman, Spiderman and the likes. Beside fighting against the forces of evil theyīre most of all very, very brave. So I guess Bob Dubrow/Kimchee Records is a superhero, because it needs quite a lot of courage to release Geoff Farina's Blobscape. Donīt get me wrong, this album isnīt so terrible he has to expect deaththreats or mailbombs for releasing it, no this album denies completely to be categorized, isnīt "easy listening" at all and therefor I guess itīll be hard selling it. For those who donīt know Geoff Farina yet (shame on you!), heīs plays guitar, sings and writes music for Karate (and used to be in Secret Stars, too). He has also released two solo albums and one 7'' on Southern Records. As everything this guy is involved, Blobscape turns out to be something special, too. Blobscape is a completely instrumental album without "written" songs, as all songs are improvisations. Part of Geoffīs inspiration for the blobscapes came from Secret Stars partner Jodi Buonanno, who was inking "action paintings" and Geoff played the guitar while watching. So donīt expect songlike masterpiece as known from Karate or previous solo efforts by Geoff. This is just about Geoff, his guitar and inspiration transcribed in sound, being recorded simultaneously. From time to time it isnīt easy listening to all 16 improvisations, but here and then really nice moments are emerging, which remind of Geoffs solo albums. To sum it up: This album is like Kimchee itself, some will love the taste of it, some will hate it. So just taste it... (by jan )

>>> enoughfanzine.com


Ann L (WXDU)

"Bloobscape?"
"Bloobsicle?"
"Boobsicle?"
"What the hell is boobsicle??"

And so unfolded a conversation between me and two friends, sometime after purchasing this record at a Karate show in New York. But after a few spins, we came to the conclusion that if Thom Yorke had put out a record of only blips and beeps, this would be its comparable equivalent, and that they both certainly deserve the artistic license. Not that I was disappointed with Blobscape by any means. In fact I testify, upon giving it a few more spins, having fallen in love with Geoff the God Farina even more, and falling asleep to this record every night since.

Geoff Farina is a demigod. He is singer/songwriter of Karate and Secret Stars, as well as author of some of the most incredible guitar work. After the rich Usonian Dream Sequence (1998) and Reverse Eclipse (2001), here he is with his third much more adventurous solo record, featuring 16 pieces of guitar improvisation. As with the Thom Yorke example, it is his musical language stripped to its purest form. It is also just a few of zillions such performances recorded at residence and artistic haven the Grange Hall, RI. I'm hesitant to use the word "ambient" for fear of implying that he's some old chuck guitar-farting his way to fame. He does after all, hold something like a Master's in jazz guitar and the history of music synthesis, and writes endless essays everything from vintage amps to analog recording. Anyway, in his latest you can hear the infusion of his blues/jazz/classical inspirations, from Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Bach, to Derek Bailey. Some previous reviewer of this record had scribbled, "Original compositions, solo guitar, rarely any grooves or regular meter. (#15 is called 'Piss?!')." Yes, if Geoffy says it's Piss, it's Piss dammit.

[a]

>>> geocities.com/matissered



Last modified: Friday, 25-Jun-2010 14:16:41 PDT

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