Phil Keaggy

November 14, 2006

Recorded during sound checks and later edited—but not overdubbed—these entirely improvised compositions are master classes in the art of live looping and digital audio arranging. Often refreshed by a hotel room nap, Keaggy would just begin jamming with himself, going wherever the muse happened to take him. In addition to playing his James Olsen and Del Langejans acoustics in the usual manner, Keaggy uses the guitars’ internal microphones to add light percussion and percussive instrument slapping to his loops. He also plays bass on a few pieces, and creates low lines here and there with a Boss octave pedal. Loopers include a Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro, a Lexicon Jam Man, and a Line 6 DL4. (His entire signal chain is explained in detail in the liner notes.)

The bugaboo with looping is, of course, that it can be difficult to maintain compositional interest and integrity throughout a single piece, much less 18 of them—and that’s really what sets this music apart. Besides playing masterfully in a panoply of styles, Keaggy transcends nearly every looping cliché by approaching each new creation—be it lushly layered and highly rhythmic, or sparse and atmospheric—with “beginner’s mind.” Included among the many highlights are the “koto” lines (produced by placing a piece of plastic between the strings) on the Eastern-flavored “South of the Boredom,” the pseudo-Afro percussion and reggae bass line on “Cayenne Loop,” the inspired Ebow work on “Helix the Cat,” and the lilting slide on the playful cover of “Blue Moon.” Don’t miss this looping masterpiece. (Strobie.)
—Barry Cleveland

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