Fred Frith: No Birds


No Birds


Fred Frith (guitar)


Guitar Solos (ESD 80442)

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Fred Frith (guitar).

Composed by Fred Frith


Recorded: London, 1974


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Guitarists have always brandished their instruments like weapons. But when Fred Frith arrived on the scene it was like AK-47s had just hit the street. He could do some nasty stuff with his axe, and in his hands the guitar seemed capable of evoking the noise of industrial machinery, the metal-clashing clamor of colliding cars, the mind-numbing brrrrr of dying household appliances, and the relentless buzz of a dental drill looking for an exposed nerve among your back molars.

Frith's classic "No Birds"—the longest track from his essential Guitar Solos release—displays how brilliant this artist could be at his finest moments. He crafts eerie, quasi-orchestral sounds from his guitar, a modified 1936 Gibson K-11. Midway through the track he plays two modified guitars simultaneously—they were laid out on a table, neck to neck, with their bodies pointing in opposite directions—and the results take us far outside the realm of conventional chordophone music. Decades have passed since this record was made, but it still stands as a signpost at the outer limits of solo instrumental performance.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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