Transcontinental Alt-Prog

September 19, 2005

“The Electric Gauchos is one of about 50 bands that have spun-off from Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft school,” says Steve Ball, one of the Gaucho’s three principle guitarists. “We’re more electric, raw, and streetwise than most other ‘crafty’ bands playing in Fripp’s New Standard Tuning [C, G, D, A, E, G, low to high], such as the California Guitar Trio, that do very friendly, crowd-pleasing music.”

Streetwise or not, the music on the Gauchos’ Blue Orb [Ballistic Music], clearly shows its Guitar Craft roots with lots of angular, tightly knit guitar figures, alternating time signatures, and expanded chord voicings—but with a decidedly electric edge. The guitarists compensate for the lack of a bassist by sharing low-end responsibilities, often utilizing an octave pedal or a DigiTech Whammy.

“The group is simultaneously based in North and South America, and Blue Orb was recorded both in Seattle and in Argentina,” explains Ball. “The Seattle tracks were recorded live at Broadway Performance Hall, and the members included guitarists Fernando Kabusacki, Martin Schwutke, and Tobin Buttram, as well as Warr guitarist Trey Gunn. The Argentinean contingent featured guitarist Christian de Santis in place of Buttram.”

Although improvisation plays a major role in the Gauchos’ music, guitar solos are conspicuously absent. “That’s partially because the group started up when Nirvana was still big,” relates Ball. “Playing Neil Young-like anti-solos—or having no solos at all—was considered cooler than self-indulgent wanking,”

As with all of the artists spawned by Guitar Craft, Ball and the Gauchos face the dilemma of distinguishing themselves from mentor Fripp. “If you study with someone who has the mastery and influence of Robert, I think you do get pegged with being in the shadow of that person,” confides Ball. “But you can also think of it as a connection to a family tree, and that’s a positive, rather than something to be ashamed of.”

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