Julia Reidy

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All Is Ablaze (2016), 7.5/10
Dawning On (2017), 6.5/10
Beholder (2018), 7/10
Brace Brace (2019), 6/10
In Real Life (2019), 6/10
Vanish (2020), 6/10
World in World (2022), 6.5/10

The Australian-born guitarist Julia Reidy moved to Berlin in 2014. She debuted with All Is Ablaze (2016), which contains two lengthy free-form solos for acoustic 12-string guitar: the 20-minute All Is Ablaze and the eleven-minute Thatched Steel & Rain. The former begins in a tranquil and pastoral mode, a delicate filigree of impressionistic and mildly dissonant strumming, and then morphs into a loud and tense, almost percussive, rhapsody before declining into a somnolent, trembling trance. The piece evokes great masters of the guitarscapes of the past, especially the transcendence of Roy Montgomery and the glitchy ambience of Jim O'Rourke, but also further back in time the expansive "journeying" of John Fahey and the feverish psalms of Robbie Basho. Thatched Steel & Rain is instead a harsher piece, that indulges in industrial dissonance and quasi-metal violence.

She also played in two duos: Tennis of All Kinds with bassist Adam Pultz Melbye and Pales with percussionist Samuel Hall. And became a member of the Splitter Orchester.

Dawning On (2017) delivered three more of these exhilarating solo-guitar meditations. Surrounds Outlast (28:55) begins with counterpoint between simple steady strumming and jarring dissonant twitching but after ten minutes it seems to lose its focus and becomes a messier affair until the eight closing minutes of melancholy decay. Something I Could Do (11:37) is a quiet, ambient piece, but a bit repetitive. Upwelling (19:10) suffers instead from too much movement and instability which makes it look more arbitrary than it should be even for an improvised piece. Here she looks more interested in exploring unusual guitar effects (i.e. after the tenth minute), but the various parts don't quite cohere. There is a lot of interesting music, but it's mostly a cerebral exercise, like the ebbing and flowing of much post-rock.

She incorporated field recordings and electronics on Beholder (2018). Syros (11:38) begins with chords that sound like Buddhist bells and despite the exploration of eccentric tones (at one point the guitar sounds like an accordion) the music remains in that quasi-spiritual sphere. Jfai (8:28) begins and ends in an exciting maelstrom of Hendrix-ian distorsion but unfortunately includes an intermezzo of found sounds. For about nine minutes Beholder (14:43) is shaken by frenzied strumming, one of her most dramatic pieces yet, but then it decays suddenly into a ghostly interstellar soundtrack. Both Syros and Beholder rank among her most significant works.

Brace Brace (Slip, 2019) introduce her anemic singing and discreet synth tones in Of Neither (13:34), whose frequent pauses leave the impression of a suite of songs. Draw (11:44) opens with galactic electronica but quickly returns to her classic 12-string improvisation.

Her auto-tuned vocals and synth arpeggios dominate the two lengthy compositions of In Real Life (Black Truffle, 2019). Crystal Bones (20:02) is spooky cosmic music with fragile and dreamy invocations, like a meeting of Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra (but after 13 minutes it suddenly turns into noise and then into a conventional lullaby). Adulare (18:25) is a bolero-like crescendo of intertwined repeated guitar and synth patterns (but again seven minutes from the end it turns into a noise concerto). A little more editing would do a lot of good to these overlong pieces.

Vanish (Editions Mego, 2020) sticks to the same format of two side-long compositions. Clairvoyant (18:22) is a multi-part suite: an ethereal prayer a` la Crystal Bones, a sort of psychedelic instrumental, a John Fahey-esque "voyage", a dark and dissonant hymn, and a funereal drones. Oh Boy (15:18) is even more varied (and bombastic) at the beginning.

A custom guitar to play in just intonation is the main instrument on World in World (Black Truffle, 2022) and its unusual tunings end up stealing the show. The way they are wisely distributed inside each song, like microscopic detours, makes the album the most elegant yet of her career and the least cerebral. It also helps that, for the first time in her career, the album is structured as a sequence of shorter compositions (nine), and luckily mostly with no vocals. The pieces that are best served by the alien tunings are the languid World In World, the mournful Walls And Clearings, the noir-ambient vignette Ajar, the wavering Loom, and especially the somnolent, reverbed Paradise In Unrecognisable Colours. Other than the lively Slipstream, this is an album of fragile compositions that struggle to survive, that always seem about to implode, garbled and warped echoes of a music that in a parallel dimension is melodic and rhythmic.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )