On one of their latest releases, Smiling C introduce us to a heavenly abode where guitar playing reaches new heights of melody and emotion, free from the confines of spatial dimensions and fuelled by the most sincere of ethereal projections.
It's amazing to come across a record that achieves so much with a limited palette of instruments, and simply pushes the absolute limits of possibility with the ones that it does utilise. Instrumentation within music has endless combinations, where the language of morphology comes right to the fore as a tool to help build and continually define the audial landscape we get transplanted within, the rules being set by a seemingly endless supply of tones and textures. More often than not, if a group or individual sticks to one medium or instrument, it's all about how they manipulate the frequencies to help make that world feel populated with life, colour and vibrancy, and this helps to define a space that brims with personality. We talk a lot about how keyboards, drum machines and the like have the ability to convey all kinds of moods, environments and setting, due to their adaptability and myriad of options when it comes to sound design, but this might be the first time that we have discussed the possibilities found within the guitar, and how it too when applied in a certain manner can capture the spirit of escapism. Guitars are often associated with band or singer-song writer settings, but with the plethora of effect pedals available there is a huge amount of scope to push even singular notes and chords to new heights of possibility, and this kind of approach has pushed guitarists to find new spaces within the established audial spectrum of the instrument. It transforms the instrument into something bigger, something much larger in scope than much of what proceeded it in a sonic sense, and allows for doors to be opened into the emotional backwaters of all who come across it. Permeability, free-flowingness, and ethereal notions start to surface within a vast array of sublimity, where textured arpeggios and vibrant chordal arrangements flourish alongside one another in a display of light and meaningful tones, with a density being applied that could move mountains with it's warm embrace. We gravitate towards these kinds of records where worlds start to become fully formed, with the soundtrack a mixture of objects and creations merging so beautifully with one another in a symbiotic mesh, bringing together so many fascinating elements that truly sing to one another. It just goes to show the raw potential of the instrument, with it's 6 strings and endless chord progressions providing much inspiration when melded together with the tonal expertise of effect pedals, with the latter element really opening up doors into the consciousness that live and breath possibility. When you come across a record that harnesses this etherealness, you pause for a moment, your ears firmly locked into the glistening harmonies and bountiful textures, with a firm eye always cast over the unravelling soundscape that rolls itself out in front of you, never for one moment casting attention away but merely diving deeper into the vast audial expanse. Rhythm, harmony and euphoria roll neatly into one symbiotic thread, an intermingling sequence that dips and dives along a threshold of imagination, where dreams merge so intuitively with realities and possibilities remain very much at the forefront, with our minds very much stuck between the middling grounds of two plains, with a step forward into the next slice of bliss all but a formality at this point. Guitars are pretty special instruments, and when graced with the right hands around their necks, and a hefty amount of magical effect pedals, then the future simply lies itself out in front of you, as the sky stares back with a warm smile plastered across it's face. Prepare to enter into a world like no other.
This is very much a world that Kevin McCormick and David Horridge created on their sole album together, with the contents of this world still standing tall today as a hallmark of heavily effected guitar music and how it really sets the mind racing through all kinds of beautiful spaces. The duo met in Manchester in 1970, and whilst jamming together they developed a musical affinity via their two playing styles matching up, and despite the musical scene in Manchester at the end of the decade exploding with all kinds of visionary sounds coming to the fore, the pair were very much in tune with the softer, more meditative side of things. Guitars and bass lines were channelled through a variety of pedals to create a large scale horizon line of sound, with intricate lead harmonies contrasted with deep expansive undertones, and by 1981 the pair had written a collection of tracks which were accompanied by some synth, which was played by Rob Baxter. After some gigging around the city, the pair eventually signed with Sheet Records at the bequest of Peter Jenner, who had managed bands such as Pink Floyd in the past, which would result in the release of 'Light Patterns', with the album name inspired by a poem that Kevin had written. Following the release of the record, the pair played frequently until David moved away from Manchester, and thus 'Light Patterns' would remain the sole effort by McCormick and Horridge, but thanks to the efforts of Smiling C, this beautiful piece of music is seeing the light of day once more. From the moment the needle falls down on the record, you get an immediate sense of the feel that the pair were going for, as the lightest of hazy muted guitar playing chimes across the spectrum, with crystal clear applications emerging from time to time to create a sense of depth, and before long you felt like you have been drifting across an endless sea of quiet euphoria, completely locked in to everything that is being offered to you. The guitar playing is beyond sublime, it's effortless slides and ebbs transporting the listener fully into a world characterised by colour, vitality and possibility, where images stick out at you but could mean a thousand things, with an invisible hand guiding us through the plains and across the fields to the place we call home. The distinct lack of percussive elements mean we simply immerse ourselves in pure melody, with all kinds of emotion pushing themselves to the surface as we pause for thought, as cascades upon cascades of notes rush over us, appealing to all the senses, the soul and the heart. It's a record that floats along above us, watching over us as we interact and do meaningful things, a soundtrack to the mundane, the meaningful, the fast and the slow, a collection of tunes that light up rooms and make staring at the walls or over a valley just as meaningful. So, without further delay, come drift with us as we take a deep dive into not just an incredible piece of music, but an incredible sonic experience.....
“Put the album on, lie back and enter the land of no floors”.
'Glass Dreams' arrives next, and as mentioned this one begins by immediately placing us within the tones that will define the rest of the record. The guitar riffs gently shift across the horizon line, merging and converging with an intertwining energy that is so pleasing on the ears, and as this intro salvo plays itself out the track gives way to a beautiful arpeggio foundation alongside some glistening solo work up top. The music feels like it's calling out to us from under water, within the shallows of some distant beach, where the blues of the water highlight the soft sands and corals that permeate underneath, as we simply stare far away into the distance, content to nod along to the warm breeze and the light swash. The sways that the track conveys are truly magical, with swells in the foundation and the lead line keeping us peaking throughout, and even as the song unwinds we are treated to one final movement through the original riff, and like that we drift out into the summer day. What an opener. Up next comes 'Last Chances', and this one begins with some ethereal tones to get us going. The distant guitar parts flicker and glisten in the morning light, as whooshing synth lines add a sense of dynamism into the momentum, as the lightest of guitar chords lift the spirits higher and higher. This all comes to a head as the looseness becomes regular, with a deep undercurrent of bass leading us into the next phase of the track, as the guitar solo up top just adds that little bit extra of intuitive melodicness that we all know we needed. The music drifts away as soon as it arrives, and we feel blessed to be part of it's journey, even if it was for the shortest of time. Glorious stuff. Up next comes 'Coast Lines', and this one starts off as soft as soft can be. The guitar line underneath provides the basis for all kinds of ethereal tones to jump about and play in the sunshine, with beautiful simmering solos combining so effectively with the lightly thudding bass, as we find ourselves meandering through the lines with a surprising efficiency. The drifts don't ever feel like stopping, as we continue to align from left to right with a surprising delicateness, never for one moment feeling like we left something behind but always looking onwards and upwards, with a sheer grace and elegance that never grows old or looses itself, but simply steps forward to new spaces of understanding. Beautiful, as always.
Up next comes 'A Dance For Two Strangers', and this one starts off with a particularly beguiling set of tones to get us going. The underneath section of the track sets the foundation for all manner of intricate guitar work, which floats along atop with such surprise and delight, never failing to show purpose or meaning, and like that it enters into it's final state of being, gone with the winds of time. Wonderful, as always. Up next comes 'Jules & Jen', and this one floats like no other. The guitar work here focuses on the meandering rhythm section, which creates this beautiful pulse that is just begging for additional layers to come join it, and this occurs as the solo emerges from the top ends of the chordal progression, as short but incredibly sweet notes hit all the right marks as we drift from space to place. We find ourselves somewhere in the middle of the composition, reaching up high for when the guitar solo comes fully into view before submerging back down into the mid section as time continues to pass us by, and once more we are left so satisfied as the track leaves us behind. 'Sandpatterns' comes along next, and this one starts off with some delightful interplay between the guitar and the bass to kick things off. The sharp chordal lines begin to be interwoven with delicate solo lines, broken up by the chorus element where the chords double up to create a sense of bookends, before we drift back into the verse and it's beautiful sense of escapism. We simply drift on this one, moving through the notions with a tantalising embrace, effortlessly grooving and moving through the lines to arrive at a point that feels very much between the lines of reality and the imagination, as we strive forward with all the purpose in the world. Beautiful stuff. Up next comes 'Reflections', and this one begins with the synths to get us going. The way in which the track opens up is gorgeous, with the deep expanse of the synths contrasting beautifully with the guitar work, which really applies itself to new heights of feeling, it's tone dripping in effect and feel. The additional key lines just add further to the blend, as we continue to slip and slide through the realms of dreams at the softest pace imaginable, with all the things we could ever wish for coming to the fore as we continue to believe in all that we see. The track keeps on bringing in these mini-climaxes of sorts that keep the intrigue running very much at the highest point possible, and we for one cannot wait to dive back into this experience. Beautiful stuff.
'Quickdance' arrives next, and this one sees in the arrival of quick guitar interplays right from the off. The rhythm guitar quickly shifts between a number of placements in order to provide an incredibly engaging undercurrent to proceedings, as we welcome in equally intriguing guitar solo work up top to help continue to bind us to the feels being presented. The shifts between frequencies is masterfully pulled off, with plenty of dips and turns thrown in for good measure, and like that the track plays itself out, to become one with the fabric of the world we perceive around us. Wonderful stuff. Up next comes 'Highlife', and this one starts off with yet another incredibly soft palette for us to get to know. The chords that hum along underneath are indefinitely engaging, with a wondrous weaving solo line thrown in up top to really help carry the melody away into the early evening sky, as the rhythm that persists within it all really creates a sense of bountiful dynamism, with plenty of weaving to be found if you look a little closer. The track places a lot of emphasis on being able to focus on both the rhythm and the lead, with the two layers very much given their own spaces to flourish and thrive, as we can explore both with ease and really sit back and enjoy the experience. This track, it does stuff to you. Up next comes 'Sunshowers', and this one beings with the cascading rhythm section to get us going. The picking style that helps create the palette of textures is rich and vibrant, with the solo that arrives up top just slotting into the spaces left behind so expertly, with the track feeling like it's been dipped in honey and gold before being presented to us. We simply drift from side to side, engaged to the max as we slip into the cracks, embracing all that we can as we loose ourselves within the moments. To wrap things up, we have 'Special Places', and it might come as no surprise that the immediate outlay of this track comes across as the most expansive sound yet. The deep driving bass helps craft a foundation that stretches out for miles, as distant chords paint the mountains and the solo channels itself into our heart strings, the world around us being painted in the most vibrant of colours, tones and feelings, as we shift through the sands of possibility once more in our journey back through into the depths of time, space and memory. This record really moves you to certain emotional and physical plains, a floating cascade of feeling that resonates with the deepest emotions that a person can have, a blank canvas of melody that allows you to imprint yourself very much into every corner of it all, and that is an extraordinary feeling. This album will make you believe in the power of the guitar once more.
Making music that feels larger than it actually is often comes from musicians who pick up an instrument and either push it to it's absolute extremes, or approach the process with a very unique mindset that results in music being made that sounds like no other. McCormick and Horridge bonded over their shared love of all things soft, undulating and deep, and we feel so very blessed that they came together and recorded this beautiful piece of music, as the journey you go on is filled with the richest feels that life can afford. Every track displays a differing side to their musical relationship, with beautiful rhythmic elements balanced out with gorgeous sliding solos, along with effortlessly balanced bass lines and synth additions that help to create a sense of evolution within the record itself. You never tire of the sublimity that comes forth, merely in awe of the capacity that these two have to continue the vibe onwards and upwards, with a constant renewal of their style leading to so many differing relationships between their guitars. Tonally excellent, textured to the max, and filled to the brim with melody and emotion, there isn't much more we can say about this record, except that when you do put it on, prepare to enter a world with no floors - float, float away into the deepest and most exciting space within your subconscious. One of the reissues of the year.
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