Album Review: The Good Old Days: Adventures in Live Looping, 2011-2014 by experimental guitarist/artist Michael Garfield
I came into contact with Austin, Texas-based Michael Garfield’s work while back when I first joined Reverbnation. His music really blew my mind and I reached out to him; ever since then we have sporadically kept in contact. When I try to describe Michael’s music, it is difficult. I mean, objectively he writes music that is acoustic guitar with various looped tracks created on the spot…but it is so much more than that. I think back to the first time I heard Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint and how it totally blew my mind with its innovative guitar looping; I feel the same way with Michael’s music. Garfield describes his songwriting expressions as “no longer “playing the guitar,” but…part of something greater in which new feedback loops directed its own shifting evolution. Looping pedals joined the tendrils of this new synthetic creature, multichannel freestyle compositions birthing on the fly.”
His newest release The Good Old Days: Adventures in Live Looping, 2011-2014 is a collection over numerous years of Michael’s live, fully improvised performances. Having music that is entirely created in the moment is one thing, but making an entire (lengthy) album of such works is really gutsy. It follows in the philosophical thoughts of numerous composers/musicians (such as John Cage and Steve Coleman) who were known to engage in spontaneous composition. Every song is a thread in the larger fabric of the album, and it all fits. TGODAILL is divided into three “sets” which all show an incredible artistic vision within the scope of Michael’s guitar/loop combination. You are taken to the very edges of space-time and tossed around in as many universes and dimensions as you can possibly imagine. The artist himself says that “Certain pieces presence layers in the archeology of consciousness: the primordial… sci-fi western sunsets, bad trips, and android blues. Others…sound like they were made by clocks. And in a sense, they were – these tunes are the performance of a complex biochemical machine that tracks the rhythms of the seasons, night and day, and plugs itself into the pulsing periodic thrum of our electronic infrastructure, the two uniting musically.”
It is rare that I come across an artist that truly makes me feel like I am a part of the experience. What I mean by this is that Michael’s spontaneous compositions draw the audience into the sphere of the retrospective playback. You feel transplanted into the moment of the song’s creation, which is something that not many artists do. Each song is being created as you hear it, rather than recording parts traditionally and engaging in heavy studio editing. The bass lines, harmonies, percussive interlocking, and melodic material all hold weight under pressure, i.e. the pressure to perform. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that these songs were created over time, mixing parts together in a DAW (digital audio workstation) and being exported into mastered sound files. The raw passion and musicality that Michael plays with is one of the defining parts of this record. You feel pulled along with his imagination as he is (quite literally) being pulled as well. Improvisation is a tricky thing, sometimes you blow it either rhythmically or melodically, but Michael has mastered a method of looping and playing that is on a pedestal all on its own. His artistic nature shows in this album’s release as well, as it is a “pay what you want” type of record. Garfield is more interested in you enjoying his music, regardless of your income bracket (much like when Radiohead released their seminal record In Rainbows). Ultimately The Good Old Days: Adventures in Live Looping, 2011-2014 is an exploration into what you perceive music, the guitar, and technology can do…then completely altering it. To accomplish this, you really have to have an incredible amount of bravery and consciousness of your musical vision.
If you want to go someplace else, someplace new, get this album. I promise you will be taking a journey that you will remember for a long time.
To purchase The Good Old Days: Adventures in Live Looping, 2011-2014 go to:
Michael Garfield can be found at: