reviews


"man and the echo’s opening song, “a lone lutheal”, starts with a simple four note progression, the recording of which is distant. Twenty seconds in, the sound expands and fills the room. Twenty seconds later, the progression stops abruptly and is follow by a few strums, the last of which disintegrates in a slow natural fade. The music is played on a “replica of a 1927 Weissenborn style 1 hourglass lap steel guitar,” loaded with experimental tunings and altered by various “preparations”. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

 

The album’s second song is “but first, the iron cow must sweat.” A bit more complex than the opener, not due to acrobatics or dexterity, but because the song deals with odd tones and layers. “machachara” is the title of the third song. It comes with a sound that builds on what’s come before sliding into new worlds. At this point, I can’t find words to describe what I am listening to other than this is beautiful music. Here are a few reference points, the first of which comes from Chris Rainier's biography, the rest I am pulling from my ears: Harry Partch, Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch, Godspeed You Black Emperor, any gamelan album produced by David Lewiston, John Fahey, The Waikiki’s “Remember Boa Boa,” John Cage, Ted Falconi.

 

Chris Rainier was born in South Africa, grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and lives in England. He studied music in Melbourne, where he earned a Master’s degree studying the work of genius composer and instrument-maker Harry Partch and exploring microtones, the notes between notes between notes between notes. Rainier pulls more than microtones from Partch. Like Harry Partch, Rainier is wholly interested in the instruments he plays. His work explores the totality of an instrument. In a prior recording, Rainier deconstructed a Dobro guitar. On man and the echo, the focus is the Weissenborn lap steel guitar. Actually, the guitar is not just the focus, it is the base of everything - because everything comes from the guitar, Rainier is able to use treatments, preparations, effects and loops in a way that never overwhelms the music. He is so successful at grounding his work in his instrument that the extracurriculars are often invisible. Rainier accomplishes this by smart playing and technique.

 

Rainier is a flawless player, but not a perfect one. There are “mistakes” in the songs, botched notes, strings struck off, inconsistencies, which all exist in context and flow seamlessly in sound. There is nothing worried about Rainier’s music, no regrets or embarrassment, nothing self-conscious. It is humbly brilliant stuff. Until late last year, I hadn’t heard of Chris Rainier. My introduction of his work came through a social media record selling group. A record freak posted that Rainier had ten copies of man and the echo for sale. He added that the original pressing of 250 had long been sold out, with copies selling for up to $75. Rainier was asking no more than he did when the album came out. We were told that we’d be crazy if we missed out on one of the best experimental guitar records ever made. I went to Rainier’s Bandcamp page, listened to a couple of songs and ordered a copy.

 

A few weeks later, man and the echo arrived. I put it in my “listen now” pile, which meant that it sat in a stack for a couple more weeks. When I put it on and dropped needle, I was floored. Not only was the music unlike anything I’d heard, but the recording is one of the best. The packaging is fantastic. Rainier, who released this himself, cares about every aspect of his music and it shows. Everything about man and the echo is great. This is not only a high compliment but it is a stunning achievement for a vinyl record made in the 21st century, when too many half-assed charlatans, money-grubbing stooges, and feckless amateurs record, manufacture and release records. It is rare that someone in the process of record making – the artist, label, mastering engineer, plater, or presser – doesn’t cut corners or fuck up the process. man and the echo is an achievement."

[Scott Soriano, Music Time, 24.08.2020]


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"He keeps enough of the instrument's essential sound up front to make you aware of the musical and conceptual ground that he covers each time he splits a luau-worthy tone into a bouquet of blooming loops or lets it unspool into a puddle of tape."
[Bill Meyer, Dusted Magazine, 22.03.16]
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[Jason Kennedy, Hi Fi +, Issue 126, August '15]

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"Radiantly beautiful acoustic guitar music of the adventurous variety."
[Jason Kennedy, @EditorTheEar, 23.06.15]

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[Rob Turner, The Wire, Issue 374, April '15]

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"This is a guitar lover’s album. An opportunity to experience the possibilities of guitar music, freed from genres and allowed to exist as a wild animal of its own accord...All in all it’s remarkable progressive music contained in a remarkable package. It’s that simple."
[Bob Baker Fish, Cyclic Defrost, 27.02.15]
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"Notable is the superb quality of the recording! Crystal clear and very well balanced, like sitting next to him or better inside his instrument! The microtonality of every scratch and plug of the strings is reproduced in its full spectrum."
[www.dyingforbadmusic.com, 03.03.15]
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"Rainier’s soulful performance of these little-known works by Partch is the most engaging and seamless combination of research and performance I have ever witnessed on a concert stage." 
[Matthew Lorenzon, Partial Durations / RealTime, 23.12.13]
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