Tuesday, April 20, 2010

German Shepherd

203 (Sunrise Acoustics, 04.2010)

For: Brian Eno, Stars of the Lid, Boards of Canada

We haven't heard too much from German Shepherd this year. In fact, this is the first musical output by the prolific Wisconsin-ite in 2010. 2009 was dominated by German Shepherd's warped, basement guitar sounds. Starting with the 4-way split with Brian Grainger, MOTH, and Millipede, and culminating with the top-10 appearance making Alpine Melodies, German Shepherd's simple, honest drones were a staple in a year marked by relentlessly good music. German Shepherd's first foray into 2010 finds him back-pedaling a bit, not in terms of ridiculously high standards of ambient music, but in terms of the conceptual impetus. During the summer of 2008 German Shepherd found himself in a cast which severely impeded his ability to play the solo from "Freebird". This limitation led to an experiment of minimalist proportions... how can I play the guitar without really playing the guitar? He described it thusly,

"The one upside to having a bone in your wrist start dying is that when you barely play the guitar like a normal person anyway, what's the big deal? I got the idea to keep recording when I was watching a friend's apartment. He had a pedal steel that I started plucking on. The goal was to see what I could accomplish without my wrist."

With 203, German Shepherd returns to the idea of creativity coming out of limitations, but this time the limitations are self-imposed. 203 was recorded using only his left hand. I can barely scrawl out my name with my left hand... I couldn't begin to imagine recording an entire album with that dangling claw. The resulting album is a gentle, contemplative, synth-based blanket of warm tones and 5-note piano lines. Divided into three sections, the 16-minute "A" track features simple ascending/descending melodious piano-note clusters that weave in and out of sustained synth tones, wading deep into Music For Airports and Avec Laudenum territory with occasional flashes of Vangelis. "B" and "C", while much shorter, tackle darker tones, showcasing some of the haunted, underwater keyboard lines that make Boards of Canada so compelling. If this is your first introduction to German Shepherd, I highly suggest you hop over to Sunrise Acoustics and download this as well as his back catalogue. While relying heavily on glacially-paced synth lines as opposed to his characteristic cracked guitar sounds, 203 is a highly regarded foray into warmer tones set at the mercy of self-prescribed limitations. The result is another gem in the roster of you-must-hear-now German Shepherd records.

Ryan H.

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