Posts Tagged ‘Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band’

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On February 27th, 2018, Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band (comprised, in this iteration, of long-time SMB bassist Peter Kerlin and Kerlin’s Sunwatchers battery mate Jason Robira on drums) were close to wrapping up an 18-date tour of the EU and UK with a two-set, one hour and 45 minute show at Cafe OTO, London’s premier venue for adventurous music. Highlights of that show are included in this live release, “Rare Dreams: Solar Live 2.27.18, recorded before a packed house seated mere feet from the band’s amplifiers. These recordings reveal a band that is clearly in high spirits and high gear, operating with an expansive, improvisatory fleetness that allows them to stretch the material to almost ludicrous extremes and then let it to snap back to some semblance of form while somehow seemingly never wasting a note, a beat, a gesture.

The four tracks included here comprise material culled from (at the time) the two most recent Solar Motel Band records “Dreaming In The Non-Dream” (No Quarter, 2017) and THE RARITY OF EXPERIENCE (No Quarter, 2016) plus covers of two Neil Young songs – the autobiographical plaint “Don’t Be Denied,” lyrically relocated by Forsyth from Young’s Canada and Hollywood to the more personally relevant geography of New Jersey and Philadelphia, and encore “Barstool Blues” (they’d run out of material to play, so another Neil Young tune it was).

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While the covers establish Forsyth’s basis, serving as an homage to Young and the quest for self-realization, the long tracks’ jams showcase the trance-inducing power of the Solar Motel Band as a performing entity. Kerlin’s gymnastically propulsive bass playing locks in with Robira’s relentless thud, each serving as counterpoint to some of the most blistering guitar work of Forsyth’s career. The telepathically dynamic interplay of the trio explodes with whiplash intensity across the 15-plus minute takes of “Dreaming In The Non-Dream” and “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues,” each song’s structure serving as a framework for extended lava flows of energy. At one point late in the “Dreaming” jam, Forsyth unplugs the jack from his guitar, dragging it across the strings and lashing the body of his single-pickup “parts” Esquire, producing a desiccated barrage of percussive static. This is music beyond the notes; it is an expression of pure electric ecstasy, a simultaneous negation and celebration of rock music’s (indeed all musics’) essential energy. In contrast to the expansive but meticulously detailed guitar arrangements of his recordings, here Forsyth’s unhinged live guitar sound positively roars with a barely restrained vocal intensity, from liquid melodic lines to gnarled blasts of free jazz scree, to pulsating lead/rhythm vamping. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this band up close for a number of years now and I can authoritatively attest that while every show is different, when the SMB is running down a steep hill at full speed (as on these takes), they become a single leaderless vibrating sonic tornado, possibly beyond the control and logic of the players themselves, picking up listeners along the way and taking them along for the ride straight into a solar furnace of sound.

“…one of rock’s most lyrical guitar improvisors,”
-NPR Music

Chris Forsyth and the rhythm section of the almighty Sunwatchers form an unholy power trio to absolutely scorch through a set of extended jams and Neil Young covers.

Chris Forsyth: guitar, vocal
Peter Kerlin: bass guitar
Jason Robira: drums

Recorded Live at Cafe OTO, London on February 27th, 2018

Releases April 23rd, 2021

Chris Forsyth is a lauded guitarist and composer whose work assimilates art-rock textures with vernacular American influences. Long active in underground circles, he’s recently released a string of acclaimed records of widescreen guitar rock, and in 2013, he assembled The Solar Motel Band, who have quickly developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking ecstatic comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, The Grateful Dead, Popol Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson.

The volatile chemistry of the Solar Motel Band is evidenced on their Solar Live 10.15.13 LP (Electric Ragtime), recorded live in Philadelphia and released in spring 2014.
Intensity Ghost, the first studio album by Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band was released to universal acclaim in October 2014 on the No Quarter label. It’s been named one of the best releases of 2014 by Uncut (#34) and the New Yorker.“pure unadulterated guitar heaven – classic rock remade.” The Quietus said, “It’s just immense.”

His most recent release with The Solar Motel Band is the double album The Rarity of Experience (No Quarter), released in March 2016. Raves have been universal. Pitchfork called it “a near-perfect balance between 70s rock tradition and present day experimentation,” NPR Music named Forsyth “one of rock’s most lyrical guitar improvisors,” and the New York Times calls him “a scrappy and mystical historian… His music humanizes the element of control in rock classicism (and) turns it into a woolly but disciplined ritual.”

In addition to Forsyth’s work as a solo artist and bandleader, he has been an inveterate collaborator with a diverse range of artists, including singer/songwriter Meg Baird,

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From the album “Dreaming In The Non-Dream” out August 25th, 2017

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Philadelphia’s Chris Forsyth has long proven himself a skillful and inventive modern guitarist, one whose combination of hard-won chops and dazzling natural ability can easily awe the sort of people who maintain Tumblr pages devoted to photos of pedal boards. It’s always been pretty clear that the guy, to borrow a phrase, knows the literature. But on the new double LP The Rarity of Experience , Forsyth proves himself to be equally as adept a composer and bandleader as he is guitar stylist. Though the album may be loosely divided by a more frenzied and fiery first half and a mellower, more idiosyncratic second act, to view The Rarity Of Experience as merely two sides of a coin would be inaccurate, as Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band, over the course of nine originals and a cover of Richard Thompson’s “The Calvary Cross,” sustains momentum while evoking a wide range of moods.

The Solar Motel Band is Forsyth’s not-so-secret weapon. Much has already been written about the dynamic rhythm section of bassist Peter Kerlin and drummer Steven Urgo, whose sensitive and powerful contributions continue to establish the firm foundation upon which the group creates its unique synergy. Non-touring member and frequent Forsyth collaborator Shawn E. Hansen adds variety and verve to the Solar Motel Band’s guitars/bass/drums format with his expansive and expressive use of Sequential Circuits’ new Prophet 6 synthesizer. And second guitarist Nick Millevoi, the newest member of the group, proves a crucial ingredient and a perfect foil, complimenting Forsyth’s Stratocaster slink with flashy passages of tremolo picking and a distinctly raunchier, more robust tone.

Forsyth knows how good his band is, which is probably why he has chosen to revisit two of his previously released tunes, both originally released on 2012’s Kenzo Deluxe as a solo pieces. The Rarity of Experience’s reimagining of “Boston Street Lullaby” is a clinic in tension and restraint, while “The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues,” replete with the hand drum patter of percussionist Ryan Sawyer and the spacey tenor sax and trumpet of the New York ecstatic jazz stalwart Daniel Carter,

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Cecil Taylor once observed that “the roots [of a musician] show more in maturity than in youth.” If this is true, “The Rarity Of Experience, Pt. 2” may provide the album’s most revealing glimpse into Forsyth’s teenage playbook, pitting the arachnidian guitar wanderings of The Days Of Wine and Roses against the rhythmic lurch of Remain In Light. Similarly, on the gorgeous “Harmonious Dance,” Forsyth’s bubbly auto-wah, combined with Hansen’s saturated synth twinkle and the rhythm section’s slippery minimalism, flashes back to Tortoise’s jazzy period circa TNT.

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