Carl Weingarten – Panomorphia (2012)

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I’m often amazed at the technique displayed by some of the world’s finest guitarists, but over time, I’ve also come to appreciate the sounds wrung from a guitar by some of the more out-of-the-box practitioners of the instrument. Robert Fripp, of course, was one of the pioneers with his “Frippertronics” technique and we’ve discussed the similar path taken by the French experimental hero Richard Pinhas, and even a brilliant technician like Pat Metheny create some amazing noises from his Synclavier guitar. There’s someone else who has quietly been blazing his trail in creating textural sonicscapes from six strings and a fret board, and if you’re into this kind of stuff, you should get to know his name: Carl Weingarten.

We introduced Carl Weingarten on this space a few weeks ago, by way of his membership in the improvised new age trio Blue Eternity with bassist Michael Manring and trumpeter/flugelhorn player Jeff Oster, but he came into that meeting with a three decade recording career already under his belt. His brand of instrumental music is often labeled “ambient” or “new age,” labels he doesn’t necessarily shy away from, but his preferred description is “progressive underground music” which is more in line with his ambitions. Influenced early on by the blues, Weingarten is proficient at guitar, slide guitar and dobro. He’s also a champ at looping, a demon at digital delays and a master of the mighty EBow. Notice a pattern here?

Right, Weingarten doesn’t rely just the normal tools of the trade to make new age/ambient music, he comes up with a few of his own. That’s a good part of why his music stands a bit apart from others in his field. While, say, Pinhas bolsters his ambience with a metal edge, Weingarten supplements his with the earth-bound sounds of the slide guitar and other blues and rock-inspired tones.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Carl Weingarten, Jeff Oster and Michael Manring perfectly combine the sterile sonics of a studio with the spontaneity of a concert performance for the live EP Live In Philadelphia 2011.]

There’s more to Weingarten that I have room to talk about here (he’s and accomplished photographer, holds a degree in cinema production and has had his own record label Multiphase Records since 1980, for instance), but there’s plenty enough to dissertate on his solo recordings alone. A fine survey of Weingarten’s work can be found in the compilation Hand In The Sand: A Collection 1990-2004, but after a six year layoff, Weingarten returned earlier this year with Panomorphia.

For this latest one, Weingarten makes some subtle shifts, and, I sense, a move to an even purer atmospheric sounds than before. The melodies are more direct and the variations within the songs occur discreetly. He goes it alone on three of these seven tracks, including the spirited “The Simian River” (Youtube below), where Weingarten craftily creates all the percussive effects that’s needed from his guitars. Contrasts that to the dreamy “Flow Of Stars,” where a rich screen of ambient sounds that also come, impossibly it seems, from a guitar.

On four selections, he tactfully deploys the help of a few others. Manring’s ethereal, yawning electric bass articulations grace three of these cuts, molding a groove along with drummer Celso Alberti for “Tango,” allowing Weingarten to freelance more on slide. Oster joins the three for “Bluescapes,” acting as smoother counterpoint to Weingarten’s hard-edged guitar. Oster alone returns with Weingarten for the billowing “Tapper,” where his flugelhorn is a calming influence on a song that hints at tension.

So each song is distinctive from each other and a few of them even groove. On Panomorphia, Carl Weingarten broke a few rules about making ambient and new age music. Progressive underground music, however, never sounded so good.

Panomorphia went on sale last April 2, by Weingarten’s Multiphase Records. Visit Carl Weingarten’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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