Six Strings of Tension: Gwenifer Raymond

By Duncan Park

For this episode we traverse to the British Isles for the first time to speak with shadowy Welsh apparition, and apocalyptically dexterous Welsh Primitive player, Gwenifer Raymond.

A lesson in Welsh musical history is imparted, with tales of Newport once being dubbed the “new Seattle” with flagship venue TJ’s leading the charge (post-interview research reveals this is allegedly where Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love), and the glory of playing in punk bands in The Valleys. We speak about Gwenifer’s musical origins and influences, and how “Hendrix was the only guitar wanker who could get away with it” (what a fucking quote, eh). Also, when it comes to electric guitar, the love of feedback triumphs over the classic solo.

Electric guitars aside, we talk about Welsh landscapes and how the ineffable feeling of visions and nostalgia of where and how you grew up permeates the music you create. In Gwenifer’s instance this would be the woods at the foot of the Garth Mountain – dark forests, cold, misty, and imbued with gothic atmosphere. And as a South African living in the tropical city of Durban where monkeys swing from the trees, I can confirm that the cold, gothic forests and mountains of an Ancient, Arthurian Wales is exactly where Gwenifer’s music somehow transports me to every time I hear it.

In terms of six stringed technicalities, for a third time on the podcast, nickel strings get a shout out (technically nickel alloy if you want the specifics), and the merits of certain recording techniques and the use of digital processing in recording acoustic guitars are discussed (if it sounds good, go for it). Chats about horror movies are where the conversation gets truly interesting, and for real, A24 needs to get Gwenifer to write a soundtrack for a classic British folk horror that they almost certainly have in the pipeline.

Songs about dogs are the only beautiful songs.

Please also note the announcement that the Lovely Eggs are the best band in the UK.

At first, you can hear how nervous I am to speak with such an incredible guitarist whomst I hold in the highest revere, but the nerves quickly settle as soon as we get into the familiar discussion territory of the glory of grunge, and the genius of Joey Santiago. It must be noted that every single song in Gwenifer’s solo repertoire is an attempt to do Vamos by the Pixies.

I hope you enjoy this chat with the wonderfully wild and surprisingly affable Gwenifer Raymond.

Film Review – Voice Of The Eagle: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho

Danny Riley reviews a new documentary about the American guitarist and mystic, Robbie Basho

Forget Gram Parsons and Gene Clark – Robbie Basho is the true voice of Cosmic Americana.

It is puzzling why the why the legacy of this unparalleled innovator of the acoustic guitar has fared so poorly in comparison to his label boss – the more popular and fashionable John Fahey. Whilst Fahey continues to project an inscrutably cool, sardonic air through his steel-string subversions of American folk-blues, Basho comes to us all open-hearted joy and sincere, religious conviction. I’d argue it is our culture’s general unease with all of these latter qualities that has acted to the detriment of the reach of his fandom. He was a guitarist of unparalleled innovation who alchemically combined elements of Indian, East Asian, British and various other folk musics to create near-symphonic odes to the American West and the human soul. In its valiant attempt and ultimate failure to get right to the heart of this baffling and beguiling musician, Liam Barker’s documentary Voice Of The Eagle: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho will do a lot to redress this critical imbalance.

Formed mainly from the video testimonials of the few people that knew Basho at all – his adopted family, a smattering of fellow musicians, the students he taught guitar and his religious associates – the film reveals details of his life and lifestyle unknown to the vast proportion of his followers. Perhaps tellingly it is the acquaintances he met through religious avenues, namely the members of the California sect Sufi Reoriented, that feature most prominently, illustrating in itself Basho’s deep and abiding commitment to spiritual enquiry. Conversely, Basho’s status as an outlier guitarist is made self-evident in the interviews with his contemporary musicians. There are some rather questionable comments from Pete Townshend – American Primitive enthusiast and also a follower of Basho’s spiritual leader Meher Baba (“I’m very influenced by Basho’s playing, you can hear it in my work”), whilst countercultural icon Country Joe MacDonald seem barely able to remember anything about his meetings with Basho. It seems that temporal distance was required for his genius to be truly appreciated, as is seen in the words of more recent musicians – Glenn Jones comes off as a veritable Basho scholar, whilst Steffen Basho-Junghans swears by some form of metaphysical connection with the late guitarist.

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