I love the guitar. It can create sounds so serene they conjure up memories of lazy childhood summers. The guitar can create nightmarish sound culled from the blackest corners of the psyche. "Spectra: Guitar in the 21st Century" is a collection of pieces from nine artists highlighting this sound diversity of the guitar.
"Spectra" is all about showcasing the guitar's limitless possibilities. There are pieces ranging from the most minimal as heard on Tetuzi Akiyama's "Three Small Pieces," to the darker electronic soundscapes of Mike Vernusky's "Nylah." Much of "Spectra" focuses on the marriage of guitar and technology, and the otherworldly sounds they can create together. Duane Pitre's "Music for Microtonal Guitars and Mallets" drifts along with a wandering low hum, bookended by sparsely picked notes. Cory Allen's "Fermion" is crackling low-key drone featuring repeated dashes of electronic pulse.
Despite the drone leanings of "Spectra," it is not without its more conventional moments. Erdem Helvacioglu's contribution "The End of the World" deviates by utilizing traditional melody in various spots. Keith Rowe provides the most harrowing moments of the compilation with his live excerpt from Cornelius Cardew's "Treatise." His intense, bubbling guitar noise scrapes at the surface but never fully loses restraint. Interestingly enough, the final track is provided by the enigmatic Jandek. "The World Stops" is about what one would expect from a Jandek piece-- arrthymic acoustic guitar playing and tuneless wailing vocals.
"Spectra" provides an interesting trip through the modern capabilities of guitar. It opens with a sense of terseness, but closes with unhinged deconstruction of the instrument's conventions. While certainly there are many areas left unexplored on "Spectra," the album serves as a fairly worthy overview 7/10 -- Robert Oberlander (18 March, 2009)