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I have an almost superstitious affinity with tremolo, the "lush, warm, and roundly pulsing” guitar sound most famously used by Johnny Marr on How Soon Is Now?, Keith Richards on Gimme Shelter - and perhaps most perfectly - Tommy James and the Shondells on Crimson and Clover.
Blissfully, I’m not the only one. The first side of blue twenty-three - dubbed The Tremolo Tapes - is Philadelphia-based guitarist Brian John McBrearty’s own love letter to the effect. Every point of the tremolo spectrum here is tasted. Barely-perceptible shivers around the plucked notes of his guitar that tingle the spine; a lurid heat-haze of guitar shimmering on the horizon; jagged, complex sound-sculptures that ripple and crackle.
These pieces were all improvised, recorded one take with one microphone. Brian himself thinks the vibe “is a bit similar to Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack.”
The second side of blue twenty-three is dubbed Things I Recall. These pieces blend composed, tumbling American Primitivism acoustic guitar ragas with mind-enveloping cloaks of drone. A simple and effective combination that seems so immediate and rewarding you’re left unsure why every guitar player hasn’t tried it.
George Russell’s dense musicologist tome Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization influenced the composition process, and Brian lists his touchstone influences as “Brian Eno, Jim O’Rourke, John Fahey and Jack Rose. They are artists that I repeatedly come back to. Recently, I have been diving into the catalogs of Sonny Sharrock, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca. Perhaps not as evident on Things I Recall, but still nonetheless huge influences on my musical point of view are Wilco, Sonic Youth and Explosions In The Sky.”
This is intuitive, graceful music that uses simple, repetitive elements to conjure the spellbound state that we sometimes refer to in Blue Tapes music as ‘spiritual pop’.
“I wanted to create music that sort-of washed over the listener and evoked the sensation of controlled deep breaths,” he adds. “I think repetition and simplicity in music can have a spiritual or healing effect. I think this is something that I appreciate more as I get older and these thoughts and feelings have influenced my compositions.”
Praise for Brian John McBrearty:
“The last couple of years have been especially fertile for minimal guitar music. The emergence of new voices such as Tashi Dorji and Richard Dawson have opened up a whole new language for the most overused of all instruments. Alongside The Library of Babel‘s Shane Parish, the next name in deconstructed guitar that you need to remember is Brian John McBrearty. Largely simple, repetitive and minimal, Things I Recall weaves hypnotic guitar figures around slowly unwinding ambient drones." - 20 Jazz Funk Greats
"Sounds a bit like a collaboration between John Fahey and Popol Vuh. How can you resist?" - Doom and Gloom from the Tomb
"There’s an effortless quality to the way Brian John McBrearty plays the guitar. Notes roll of his fingertips, falling into perfectly crafted, beautifully tranquil melodies... coaxing a range of textures out of his instrument, from delicate folk finger-picking to reverberating ambient sound waves." - The Key/WXPN