Composed in 2002 as a musical accompaniment to Canadian choreographer Davida Monk’s multimedia dance performance (itself conceived around excerpts from Jan Zwicky’s text “Lyric Philosophy,” in which she champions the “non-rational meaning wrought through the artistic creation process”) at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Lyric/Suite is an album that will no doubt surprise and please experimental guitarist Bill Horist’s existing fans and may even draw some new listeners from the Radiohead crowd.
Over the course of 13 approximately one- to six-minute “movements,” Horist presents his own take on artistic genesis in action, often beginning with a motif or theme and using overdubs and loops to elaborate upon it. The overture, for instance, begins with the rhythm and chime of a mechanized timepiece. Horist gradually enhances this with long, ambient notes; at one point he turns it into a music box tune. The layering process transforms his solo guitar into a small but versatile ensemble.
“Scissors,” as the title suggests, is clipped and stuttering, giving the song an eerie, unsettling quality. “Alphabet Dance” is equally as bitty but somehow more frenetic, like rapidly flipping through radio stations. The oriental-sounding “Cadence” is smoother and pleasantly more exotic (and at 37 seconds, by far the shortest track), whereas “Gesture” starts off familiarly enough but quickly devolves into one of the noisier works in Horist’s repertoire.
Not every track on Lyric/Suite is as purposeful or imaginative as those mentioned above. Some fall prey to the self-indulgence and excess inherent in the avant and experimental genre. But to his credit, Horist has tried to make the act of guitar-based composition as transparent as possible without sacrificing its poetry and enigma — the art behind the art, so to speak. Surely that would present a challenge for anyone.