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LISTEN: Kiran Leonard Mix
Christian Eede , March 3rd, 2016 16:56

Kiran Leonard explores non-standard guitar playing in mixtape exclusively for tQ; check it out below

With a new album, entitled Grapefruit, on the horizon and set for release via Moshi Moshi on March 25, Kiran Leonard has been kind enough to put together a mixtape exploring non-standard guitar playing and some of his favourites to play the instrument. He's also given us a lengthy screed to accompany the mix; think of it as a little reading material while you enjoy the mix.

You can find the mix above and the accompanying text and tracklist below. You can pre-order the new album here. You can also catch him on tour throughout March and April and you can find all the details for those shows here.

"God, guitar players are tedious. The affectations of an aspiring rock god are as universally recognisable as they are nauseating: shitty cry-baby string bends, directionless pentatonic rambles like water disappearing down a plughole, 'Sweet Child o’ Mine;. Can we really blame Kaki King for inquiring: 'Are we to have another century of guitar / When the best instrument in the world is still piano?'. In my opinion this is the challenge that faces every guitarist: to find a way to respond to this deeply ingrained (and abused) tradition. My hope is that this mix culls together different examples of people who achieve a style of playing that is wholly theirs, in spite of the countless number of instrumentalists who came before them.

"Individuality is obviously very difficult to achieve in any medium, but at the same time - and I think this reveals the greatest strength of the instrument - with the guitar there is an infinite number of opportunities for idiosyncrasy given the simple fact that it’s so accessible and easy to learn. Now, there’s always going to be masterful, incredible work provided by virtuosos who have clearly spent years and years developing their technical ability.

"Marnie Stern didn’t invent finger tapping but I’ve never heard it sound the way it does on In Advance of the Broken Arm, like an electrical fire in an animal testing facility. Few could hope to play with the sensitivity and skill that Richard Dawson does, and access that magnificent meeting point between John Martyn and Bill Orcutt (who also features in this mix: hearing A New Way to Pay Old Debts a few years back was as big a revelation for me as a musician as when I heard the Mars Volta for the first time when I was 10 or 11).

"But sometimes the places where the guitar really reveals itself as the best instrument in the world is when it’s played brilliantly by people who suck. There aren’t really many other instruments where this is the case. If you want to play a brass or a woodwind instrument, say, that’s great (clarinets rule!), but you’ve got to work at it! You’ve got to practise your embouchure and that. But when it comes to the guitar, think of that magnificent short essay by David Fair on how to play the instrument, which features such choice quotes as 'I recommend electric guitars for a couple of reasons. First of all they don’t depend on body resonating for the sound so it doesn’t matter if you paint them', and 'Tuning the guitar is kind of a ridiculous notion. If you have to wind the tuning pegs to just a certain place, that implies that every other place would be wrong. But that’s absurd. How could it be wrong? It’s your guitar and you’re the one playing it'. Would Half Japanese have worked as well as a brass ensemble? Would Neil Young be able to play a solo that still makes you weep even when half of the notes are duds on a tuba?

"For me, the guitar is the instrument that closes the gap between creative desire and technical necessity most efficiently. You just pick it up and beat the shit out of it and it feels good. If you want to agonise over perfecting D mixolydian, that’s your prerogative but it’s not a prerequisite. 'Scales are for fishes', as Beefheart once said (though I concede that he actually said this about the clarinet, he is surely the exception that proves the rule).

"So, here’s to the people who push against the prevailing tide in a medium where it’s arguably as strong as it gets. Effects pedal enthusiasts and acoustic minimalists, technical wizards and musical Shakespearean clowns, all as wonderful as each other. God bless the inexhaustible and universally accessible mode. This is democracy manifest! And can you believe it? It’s all the same instrument!!!

"Post-script: no disrespect to Michael Angelo Batio. He is an innovator and undisputed master at his art form. “Freight Train” is a classic, and his instructional videos rule. Rock on."


Second Brain - Kaki King
Go to Bruises - US Maple (Mark Shippy & Todd Rittmann)
Space Age Couple - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Zoot Horn Rollo)
Pocket Underground - Bill Orcutt
Cat - dbh
Precious Metal - Marnie Stern
Child - Loren Mazzacane Connors
Details on How to Get ICEMAN On Your License Plate - Don Caballero (Ian Williams)
10th Ave. Freezeout - Half Japanese (one of the Fair brothers, I’ve no idea which)
Frame by Frame - King Crimson (Robert Fripp & Adrian Belew)
That Old Sound (No. 27) - Mary Halvorson Quintet
Nadan Al Kazawnin - Group Inerane (Adi Mohamed & Bibi Ahmed)
Black Dog in the Sky (Marc Riley Session, 7/12/15) - Richard Dawson
Cortez the Killer - Neil Young & Crazy Horse