WTF?! Wednesdays: Bruce Eisenbeil, “Improvisation #2″ (2011)

So I have to tell you the story of my introduction to Bruce Eisenbeil. It was the rare occasion when I had a chunk of cash burning a hole in my pocket, with the idea of buying some new stereo speakers becoming increasingly all-consuming. I didn’t want to go to a local stereo shop because frankly, they’re all kind of snooty and imposing. Through an audio publication, I’d become aware of a small company that specialized in stereo gear. They’d go out of their way to advise you on making the right choice. I made an appointment to spend an afternoon in their listening room, auditioning speakers.

I took a close friend with me for moral support (read: to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid). We took off from eastern Vermont early in the morning, driving through the middle of nowhere to arrive at, uh, the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. We found the place by early afternoon, shortly after beginning to make those “Do you hear banjos?”-type jokes. It was a surreal start to the day.

Our host was very personable and put us at ease. We settled into our listening chairs as the first of several speakers were positioned. I’d brought several CDs with me so as to test the important performance characteristics: dynamics, bass response, and all of that. My go-to rock song for this kind of thing is Steely Dan’s “Aja.” There are lot of stuff going on in that tune, especially as things heat up near he end. For some speakers, it’s just too much. Things get all muddy, with details lost in the sonic fog.

At one point, our host offered up some alternate music selections. He popped a CD in the transport and out flew guitar like I’d never heard before. It was kind of scratchy and spidery and didn’t seem to follow any musical logic that I understood. The music was Bruce Eisenbeil, from his Nine Wings release. I was completely mesmerized. Here I was trying to figure out which speakers to buy and all I could think of was how interesting this music was.

As fractured as some of his music can sound, there’s a sort of inner architecture that begins to make itself known after you’ve given it enough time. It’s certainly not for everybody, as most folks want something “recognizable” to hold onto. Me, I just dig the music’s nervous energy.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://theotherscottpeterson.com Scott

    Interesting stuff! It’s kinda like some of Keith Jarrett’s shorter pieces, when he plays in Bartok verging on Schoenberg mode.