Just five days after celebrating his 71st birthday, Michael Chapman was at The Lexington to perform a collaborative reinterpretation of a track from his debut ‘noise’ album and career-first improvisation, The Resurrection & Revenge of the Clayton Peacock.
“This will be a truly unique gig,” promised Chapman’s website, “as Michael Chapman, Dean McPhee and Daniel Land will be recreating the Resurrection side of the LP live, obviously as this is essentially an improvised gig anything may happen.”
Lancastrian guitarist Dean McPhee opened proceedings with a long solo set, which was followed by a shorter set by Mancunian Daniel Land.
With a Fender Telecaster, a tremelo pedal and a good deal of reverb, McPhee span out cleanly-picked long-form melodies with full chords of a languid, opalescent tonality. His material is clean-lined and mesmerizing, rather too much so at times; a little more grit under the shell might produce some real pearls.
Daniel Land is best known for the “shoegaze”-influenced music he makes with his group, The Modern Painters, but here he played something quite different, an amplified variation of the multi-layered ambient music he records as riverrun, using an array of pedal effects to produce a rich wash of electric tonalities.
Michael Chapman followed Land with a very brief solo set of highlights from his recent Trainsongs career retrospective such as “Slowcoach”: a sequence of warm, dancing patterns of hypnotically cyclical finger picking, presumably selected for its contrast to the free-form “Clayton Peacock”.
On the Clayton Peacock album, Chapman, playing solo, achieves a rich, rebarbative sound, as if the recording were realized in a cavernous metal cistern. Its sonics are hardly analogous to those of the influences most often attributed to Chapman, such as Jack Rose or John Fahey (whose 1959 recording “The Death of The Clayton Peacock” inspired Chapman’s album title). They are more comparable to the hazier shades of Neil Young’s La Noise, or even the less blasted interludes from Young’s Thurston-Moore-influenced Arc-Weld live tapes, though glints of Chapman’s spiky finger-picking ripple through.
Where the album track coursed to its resolution on throbbing pulses of bass guitar and rudimentary percussion, the three-guitar attack of the live version of “Resurrection” presents a more unified sound field. Land summoned up a rich wash of electric sound, to which McPhee, mostly eschewing finger picking, used an e-bow and various bits and bobs, such as a knife on the strings, and taps, slaps and raps to the body of his guitar, to add variegated textural sustains. Chapman steered the improvisation through its changes, sometimes conventionally picking, at other times coaxing subtler resonances from his guitar. The accumulated mass of reverberant amplified sound was thicker and less artfully differentiated than Chapman’s sensitively realised solo recording, but no less subtle (until at the very end, when Land gave the volume a jarring tweak upwards). The Clayton Peacock may not yet have had its final resurrection.