Christopher Willits: Pollen

The guitar has come to occupy a more central role in electronic music the past few years, spurred on certainly to some degree by the success of Fennesz and the rightful attention his recordings have attracted. One thinks of Oren Ambarchi as another leading figure in this regard, although the two artists' respective styles are hardly similar. Christopher Willits' name must be added to that short list judging by the exquisite Pollen, recorded in 2001 but only now released by Christopher Murphy's Fällt label. Willits already garnered attention with Folding, and the Tea released in 2002 on 12k, so his style of playing will be familiar to those lucky enough to have discovered it. His style in no way mimics the static-soaked haziness perfected by Fennesz. Instead, Willits uses signal processing and real-time sampling to fold his guitar lines on top of each other to generate cycling patterns and continuous streams of mutating sound. The lines continuously turn back upon themselves, generating intricate webs that can verge on labyrinthine. Drifting passages of interweaving lines coalesce to form a music that's delicate and hypnotic. Crystalline melodic fragments glimmer, glisten, hiccup, and pause, with tactile clicks charting the paths Willits' guitar takes. It's hardly one-dimensional, however, as Willits uses different rhythms to create contrasts from one piece to the next. The rhythm in “Stomata,” for example, resembles a funky shuffle, of all things, but it's more implied than overt, with the constant folding of guitar shimmer camouflaging the beat. “No…Gasoline,” on the other hand, unfolds more languidly, its gentle fragments fluttering like butterfly wings seen in slow motion. Willits' 'folded' method makes Pollen a delectable complement to Akira Rabelais' equally satisfying recording ...bénédiction, draw (Orthlorng Musork). Interestingly, Rabelais used a similar method, as the disc's music was generated entirely from Rabelais' guitar recorded in single passes and filtered with Argeïphontes Lyre. Anyone looking for abrasive guitar soloing should look elsewhere but for those interested in subtle electronic ambience, Pollen and ...bénédiction, draw make a lovely pair.

March 2004