I'm Not A Gun: Everything At Once
City Centre Offices

When the City Centre Offices' latest offering begins with a swirling electronic pattern, the listener settles in, anticipating another strong release of well-crafted melodic electronica. The sudden appearance of dueling guitars is the first sign that something's different but when the drums powerfully kick in, driven along by China cymbal accents that unabashedly evoke jazz-fusion, it's clear that I'm Not A Gun's Everything At Once promises to be a significant departure for the Berlin label. Furthermore, while most of its releases exemplify a painstaking layering of electronic and acoustic elements, this latest one exudes a much more natural and live feel. Certainly there are electronics present but they're woven so seamlessly into the overall fabric as background ambience or loops that the recording often seems unadorned. What most distinguishes I'm Not A Gun, a 'quartet' comprised of two guitars, bass, and drums, from its label brethren is its inspired, robust style of instrumental post-rock. Of course this move into guitar-based territory is not entirely new, given the recent Manual and Limp recordings by Jonas Munk, but it does promisingly signal an expansion of musical terrain associated with the Morr Music and City Centre Offices labels.

Of course, there exists a long and time-honoured tradition of guitar duets. The 1970s saw the pairing of John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana on Love, Devotion, Surrender, a fusion nirvana of sorts. In that case, compositions like Coltrane's “A Love Supreme” became mere pretexts for extended soloing. A subsequent era of jazz-fusion saw John Scofield tangle with Pat Metheny on I Can See Your House From Here and with Bill Frisell on Grace Under Pressure. In both cases, the tracks were broached as compositions first, and secondarily vehicles for exhibiting the prowess of its players.

As in the Scofield-Metheny pairing, the focus on Everything At Once is almost entirely upon the interplay between the two guitarists, although the bassist and drummer also assume lead roles. The guitarists here are John Tejada and Takeshi Nishimoto, the bassists Tejada and Nishimoto, and the drummer, Tejada once more. (Tejada is a familiar figure, of course, having recorded extensively. In recent times, he has been associated with Plug Research and has appeared on the last two Staedtizism compilations.) Obviously, then, the 'live' feel has been accomplished through judicious overdubbing. In itself, this isn't unusual considering how commonplace it is for recordings to be assembled in this additive manner, but what's so remarkable here is how convincingly the illusion of a 'live' four-piece is established. In general, Tejada and Nishimoto hew closely to the strong melodies rather than indulging in extended soloing. They complement each other wonderfully, their serpentine lines constantly weaving in and out, creating a dense tapestry. They eschew distortion, opting instead for a chiming, melodic approach, and consequently the overlapping of their playing never becomes overbearing. The opening “Jet Stream” encapsulates the overall style fairly well. Against a looping electronic backing, the drums aggressively attack while the guitarists' sinuous lines dart around each other, the prominent bass assuming an anchoring presence. Perhaps overtly acknowledging their renowned precursor, one guitarist even indulges in some runs that sound unmistakably McLaughlinesque. Prior to hearing Everything At Once, its cover image of a hazy, smog-laden cityscape might mislead one into imagining the music to be similarly grungy and industrial. To the contrary, the recording is filled with the inspired (if admittedly illusory) sounds of a four-piece whose tasteful players favour solid, full-fledged compositions and succinct guitar interplay over endless, indulgent soloing.

April 2003