Supple Pipe Records 2012 SP3009
What do you do if you come from somewhere which is neither here nor there, big nor small, important nor unimportant, neither loud nor quiet? What do you do if you come from Franklin, Mass, or Fareham, Hants? Apart from move to the city, diving into the opportunities, swimming or drowning in culture? And then what do you do if you are possessed by the muse of music and your birthplace gives you nothing to go on? If the platform of experience has to be less….existentialist if you like, or Freudian, or expressive of roots? Well then you call on experience, your skills, your present enthusiasm, your talent: and this is where multi-instrumentalist, crack guitarist, arranger, and weaver of intoxicant sounds Christopher Cordoba finds himself right now, calling on the elements of life and the great landscapes of the imagination to make “The Static and The Swerve”, his second solo instrumental LP.
This new record is a search for new places, interpreting experience with an imagination of sound. Place doesn’t matter. Emotions matter. And this record is full of warm, elegiac, sorrowful, uplifting and wonderfully wise music. It’s a positive, confident and genre-bending follow up to 2010’s Paternity, a debut which dealt with the terrors and joys of first fatherhood with a defiantly limited sound palette – nearly all the songs were created on guitars, even the ones that sounded like pure electronica, Christopher Cordoba investigating how far a guitar can go in the hands of a guitarist who will go as far it takes. But if Paternity was about textures and how far it is possible to push a guitar as an instrument (though he does it here too, on the title track), this second record is more about atmospheres and how the guitar can fit in as an expressive instrument, with more emphasis on clarity, rhythmic change, open sounds and space – plenty of space. And some really great guitar playing in the mode of Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Richard Thompson, Gabor Szabo – oh you know, the greatest modern guitarists. The guitar can relax, reflect or sometimes rock hard, repositioning itself as the voice of life rather than the body of life. Pianos, drums, keyboards, marimbas, strings also make their mark in this 23 track broad record which sets the guitar free. It’s also great fun.
From the kinetic freewheeling introduction of “Why Must You Always Change Everything” to the shimmering, pastoral chamber music of “The Incredible Shrinking Man; from the motoric Wooden Shijps meets Yo La Tengo of “A Country On Wheels” to the glorious melody and colliding marimbas of the Jim O’Rourke-esque “Owl Farm”; from the nightmare calypso of “Ricky Drowned” to the classic Cordoba climax of “Leipzig: and from the dizzy Reich remix of “Crystal Chiming” to the mutant jazz, switchback delays and electronic bubbles, like a lost soul wading through the streets, of “Panic on Clark Street”, this record has an incredible scope and force and cohesion. Christopher Cordoba also has a great way with titles, all of which suggest he has transcended place and origin and discovered beauty.
Christopher Cordoba “Paternity” LP (SP3006) released: 2011
Fans of The Durutti Column, Bill Frisell, Brian Eno’s ambient work and connoisseurs of the Warp, Wyndham Hill and Leaf record labels will appreciate this diverse and yet very centred first collection from Cordoba.
An expectant father, realising that his world will never be the same again, awakes in the middle of the night to the sound of an unborn child crying.
Listen to: Tanzi Shuffle
Armed with no more than a Telecaster and an E-bow he attempts to recreate the sounds he heard that night in the small box room he has been allocated in the new cottage he and his wife have just moved into. As the week counts down to the birth, the music that emerges is “Paternity”, an album created from the impending doom/joy of fatherhood.
Listen to: The Ghost of the Roman Soldier
But while the record may deal with the deeply personal emotions surrounding the impending birth of a first child, it is resolutely unsentimental, even in its sweeter moments. There are elements of doom, remorse and doubt, but many of the 15 tracks resolve in a positive turn towards the future. In places glacial, in places industrial, in others quiet, pensive and reflective, this is a concise, eclectic and rewarding album of melody and skill.
“Paternity” has an atmosphere of contemplative winter clarity, yet it is also witty and engaging, using a deliberately limited range of sounds to draw a sketch of the mixed emotions which must accompany such a life-changing event as parenthood. Once the child arrives and time is no longer your own, how will the music survive? And where does it come from in the first place? The miracle of birth is not the only miracle. There is also the miracle of the creative process, and Cordoba is searching for the source of inspiration, as mysterious as that is. You can hear the urgency, the sheer need to record these scintillating pieces before constant supervision of a child replaced constant guitar-playing.
The guitar work is very much in Cordoba’s own unique style. It is not bluesy or folky, not even really jazzy, transcending all genres in the way of Richard Thompson or Robert Fripp. Yet it is also highly contemporary, and has a spirit common to the work of, say, Tom James Scott or James Blackshaw.
This is music which is sure of itself and its own direction, but also asks questions: What is beauty? What is yet to come? What will the world be like in our children’s time?