Review Summary: Guitar-processioncore.
A procession. A celebration of rock music, theatre and the experimentation of the downtown NYC arts scene. This is Tilted Axes.
Created by composer/performer Patrick Grant, Tilted Axes is an ensemble of mobile electric guitarists who use portable amplifiers strapped to their sides to walk through the city streets along predetermined routes in selected areas, in honour of an event, landmark or organisation unique to that community. Effectively, Grant's goal is to move rock music away from the stage and into the streets through these processions, which also allow local guitarists the opportunity to participate.
As an album, Music for Mobile Electric Guitars
encompasses this feeling of marching through the streets. You can practically see the swarm of electric guitar necks buzzing down through the city square. The music is certainly evocative – the sense of adventure and theatre is all there and it can be easy to get lost in the celebratory style of the music. I have no doubt that if I was anything more than a talentless hack who could play anything other than the most basic three chords one can learn, and if the procession was coming 'to a town near me', I would be the first to sign up.
The problem with Tilted Axes releasing this as an album is that it can often be difficult to view it as one. This is music meant for the live experience; one should have all the fireworks and ridiculous hats necessary to truly enjoy this. But as a studio work, as a collection of songs... nah. This is missing the very thing that makes it unique, special and ultimately worth engaging in. Is it bad, unpleasant or annoying? Not at all. You can put this on and get a real sense of what Tilted Axes are all about, and if that is the intention then well played to them, because my desire to pick up that dusty old guitar again has certainly gone up since before I pushed play.
Ultimately, though, this is
an album and it needs to be critiqued as one too. For starters, it's long... very long. At 75 minutes in length, it's a bit of a monster and its length does indeed prove to be quite scary. Even in the hands of more established artists, maxing out the running time of a compact disc often proves to be a mistake, as the average human attention span just isn't built for concentrating on one thing for such an extended period of time. With Music for Mobile Electric Guitars
this is even more pronounced as the music all sounds really similar. As part of the procession, watching the guitarists do their thing together would be quite a sight, but hearing it on record for over an hour proves to be an incredibly exhausting experience.
What this all really comes down to is what you hope to get out of this release. As an album, put alongside other instrumental rock albums, it's not one of the finer efforts of recent times. It's too long, too samey and too emotionally one-note to make any kind of real impact on the listener. However, viewed as a companion album, something similar to the digital music sent to aspiring participants in the Tilted Axes procession, it makes much more sense. To those who are new to hearing about the events and want to know what they can expect from them, pick this up. But, for me, watching a mobile electric guitar event sounds much more interesting than listening to one.