Solo Guitar Improvisations
Recorded at Home, Asheville May 2014
Photography by Meredith Bliss Silver
released March 31, 2015
Appa's 13 curious short compositions feel their way as if improvised, where, unhindered by the need to take cues from other players, Dorji can focus on the textural qualities of the solo sounds, and how to evolve and transform them. While melodic themes do form, it never takes long for them to disintegrate like patterns painted in dust. Equipped with both modern and traditional techniques but guided by neither Appa's novel expressions captivate like shadow puppetry, its simple source spinning complex tales.
- The Quietus
An inherent emotionalism can be found in his treatment of dynamics, within the tension between the stability and flight of his movement-style. They serve to be two modes of articulation that are constantly at odds, as Dorji intends to express repose, even strength while simultaneously demonstrating a vigorous, athletic sense of motion. The result is a bright meditation coming from one of the most innovative figures within a new school of solo guitarists that are re-inventing the “primitive” instrumental mindset.
-Tiny Mix Tapes
As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Tashi Dorji.
Explaining the guitar stylings of Tashi Dorji has been a formidable but rewarding task since his first blip. His deconstruction of expectation and sound was an impressive barrel roll on an instrument often rooted in particular styles for the impatient ear. Dorji’s work was corrosive, laying waste to convention without wholly abandoning his influences and inspirations.
Yet Appa is the promised fulfillment of all those musique concrete ideas despite being his most accessible (see: traditional) work to date. Much of Appa is steeped in familiar territory for guitar purists: Fahey, Kottke and Harper. But Dorji is also true to himself and his grateful peers: Chasny, Blackshaw and the Bishops.
Quaint, patient plucks (“Floods,” “Murmur”) stand toe to toe with Dorji’s more ferocious and adventurous maneuvers (“Forbidden,” “Errant Sphere”) that poke holes in formality. Though every song provides what some call recognizable melodies, the trip to reach that predictable destination is far from predictable.
Describing Tashi Dorji’s music makes it seem pretty esoteric. The Bhutan-by-way-of-North Carolina guitarist creates improvised solo guitar pieces made up of skittering runs, buzzing strings, gamelan-like harmonics and other possibly unnameable sounds. But don’t let that scare you off. Dorji’s unusual approach translates into something positively magical — and extremely listenable.
There was a great collection of earlier Dorji material on Ben Chasny’s fledgling Hermit Hut label last year, but Appa, his new LP on Bathetic Records, might be the best place to start exploring this beguiling six-string universe. Dorji works in mostly miniature format — the songs come and go quickly. But he packs a lot into every moment. It’s as though he’s discovering the music along with the listener, the fragile and beautiful melodies unfolding in a logical, but always surprising fashion. Dorji doesn’t fit into any particular box. He’d prefer to build his own. words
The chief mandate, it seems, is concision. This isn’t a complete departure from Dorji’s practice elsewhere. Listen to his self-titled release on Hermit Hut, which was culled from several different cassettes, and you will not find any flailing around. But there’s an elegance to these statements that seems positively editorial. Another priority is that the music must be vivid. Each cluster or sequence flairs like a sparkler being lit, as bright and bold as it is brief. Vivid, of course, does not necessarily mean loud. Gravity is one law that can’t be bucked, and each plucked note of this music holds close to a particular tonal center or melodic kernel. It seems to will its energy inwards, perhaps loath to disturb those who are sleeping and growing in the next room.
- Bill Meyer, Dusted Magazine
Before our eyes, the stalk begins to sprout from the ground, gently at first. It’s almost afraid of sticking its feelers above the soil, perhaps afraid of its uniqueness or fearful that it is not in fact a delicate flower. Yet Dorji always creates something new from a handful of seeds and a mound of soil.
- Ad Hoc