By JP Holesworth
Is the “monkey grip” the pinnacle of superstrat design aesthetics? Is this still the coolest we've got, folks?
The definition of superstrat still seems to be an S-type guitar with a humbucker in the bridge configured to HSH, HSS, HH or just the H … plus a Floyd or Kahler locking trem system. Did I leave out anything?
Oops! Forgot straplocks, locking tuners, reverse headstock … and toss in a scary finish, mother-of-pearl fretboard inlay work (any inlay design, as long as it’s mother-of-pearl) and maybe a kill switch for drama. Just the term “kill switch” speaks authority, y’know.
I guess I did leave out a bunch of real cutting-edge stuff there. So naturally, the only possible, imaginable feature to really push the outer-envelope of innovation for the guitar-buying public would be a monkey grip. Whew!
And now it’s 25 years later. Exactly 25 “jemyears,” in fact. And in these shredful years, we’ve also seen a vintage revival, along with a relic craze for the faux-vintage budget-minded because of players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson. So welcome aboard the merry-go-round! Meet the new axe, same as the old axe!
But instead of being so cynical or anything here, let’s take a fresh, optimistic look at what Netherlands-based Aristides Instruments is serving up these days with the OIO guitar, endorsed by their fellow homeboy Adrian Vandenberg and a few other Euro-shredders of respectable note. That’s right, kids -- Holland! Not Italy or Germany, although we see more than a touch of Testarossa styling and Stuttgart clean efficiency here.
The dream of Dutch engineer and acoustics expert, Aristides Poort, these guitars are the culmination of research into an alternative tone material that began in 1995. Yep, besides jumping off the wood wagon, Poort wasn’t interested in the usual carbon-graphite composite thing, or metals either. And we’ve safely established that this material also isn’t a by-product of some World Health Organization-funded THC-free medical hashish experiment that nobody in Amsterdam (or anywhere else) has any possible use for. No — nothing like that!
This proprietary substance, “Arium," is some sort of lightweight glass-ceramic material that is incidentally also shatterproof — thank God! Most important is that the stuff is highly resonant and strong. And that’s all I can tell you, besides that it seems pretty nifty.
And although they coulda created any body shape, from traditional to some gothic, alien brain-sucking reptilian angel of death, dragon warlord instrument of eternal wrath. Instead, Aristides went for a sleek and sexy, Euro-themed S-platform with very clean lines and a minimum of mechanical clunkyness and/or overall busy-ness.
In fact, they even skipped the full-blown locking trem system for a Wilkinson/Gotoh VS100, GraphTech nut and Sperzel locking tuners configuration. Refreshing! In case this worries some of you who are still surfin’ with the aliens of dive-bombery, just bear in mind that Dutch-born EVH used a standard Fender trem on the first album. And make an effort to learn about set-up and technique.
Oh yeah … nor does the OIO feature an iPhone-docking interface with which to engage a Skrillex ringtone app mid-solo. The innovation here, besides fresh materials and top craftsmanship, is more about keeping things simple and standing apart from the herd, while also not standing in the Tolkien portal or outside Hal’s pod bay doors.
Definitely a big boy’s guitar for advanced players, the OIO is all about sophistication that’s sporty and tight without being stuffy or over-pimped. No 50 layers of clear on a trans-turquoise AAAAAAAA quilt maple cap with binding on every possible edge, mystical dolphin shaped f-holes and gold plated, personally monogrammed pickup covers; yuppie show-and-tell TOOLishness!
Have you seen that Rivera amp vs Lamborghini Diablo video on YouTube? Wouldn’t the Aristides OIO have been cooler than the ubiquitous Les Paul in this setting? I’m just sayin. Hey, Les Pauls are great, but Slash and a couple dozen orthodontists now own all the best LP’s. So, no soup for you, junior!
If you know of a cooler Generation “Y” superstrat, I wanna know about it! Otherwise, check out the Aristides! Sorry, no grips, handles or leftover flexible apparati. You’ll just wanna hold the neck like any earthling should.
For more info, check out aristidesinstruments.com.
JP Holesworth authors the Stratoblogster Guitar Blog and resides in rural Oregon, surrounded by Pinot Noir vineyards, hop plantations, medical MJ farms and extreme environMENTAL consciousness. But he loves red meat and vacuum tubes!