Monday, June 24, 2013

Review - Billy Gomberg "False Heat"

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ideas: an acoustic guitar and vocalist, a verse-chorus-verse pop song — this isn't to say that incredibly complex concept albums, highly technical death metal, prog rock, mad-scientist modular synths or heady experimental albums are not good ideas. Often they are, and I usually enjoy listening to them. And this isn't to say that there isn't some painfully bad and contrived folk and pop music out there, because there is.

"Simple" is often synonymous with "boring" or "bad" when it comes to music, and while I completely agree that this can be true in a lot of cases, there are bands, albums and artists that are simple and are far from boring or bad. But simple idea, song or album certainly does not occur at the expense of practice and mastery, and this is an important distinction to make, and it is certainly a distinction evinced by Billy Gomberg's "False Heat."

The two tracks on "False Heat" are side-long improvisations utilizing synthesizers, "a temporarily empty room with a guitar amplifer, and open window and no live computer treatment." The idea is so simple and the results are impossible beautiful. Side one begins with some barely audible, but very heavy, bass frequencies, room noise and analog hiss. Gomberg's synths gradually climb into higher registers, slowly shifting like the sun moving across the empty room they occupied.

Side two has a bit more motion, with shuddering tones dropping amidst Gomberg's glass-like bed of sustained, though subtly changing, notes. While very minimal and slow-moving, Gomberg is adept at introducing new notes and textures, making these tracks quite engaging and dynamic; he's equally skilled at taking them away. To passersby, "False Heat" may indeed sound boring and one-dimensional, but it takes real skill and patience to create sound that is this minimal and restrained on one hand and dynamic and interesting on the other.

I am unfamiliar with Gomberg's previous work, but the patience and restraint on display here indicate his mastery of his craft. "False Heat" may be a simple idea, but the results for the listener are incredibly complex, and in lesser hands, such an idea would indeed be boring and bad. An incredibly rewarding and beautiful record. Highly recommended.

This release is incredibly limited. Available now from Experimedia.