Serious as philosophy, loose as sleep, sweet as raspberries blown in a bubble bath.
It’s Eric Chenaux on guitalele and toe-synth (a homemade synthesiser played with the toes) and Ryan Driver on thumb-reeds (strips of cut balloon stretched between the thumbs and played with the breath, as we may with a blade of grass).
Buzzing, sliding, chirring, chirping, plinking, muted noises, fret noises, skateboarders cruising by, prop planes and distant helicopters, cars, dogs, whispers, voices on the breeze, wind noise on the pop screen.
The Guayaveras in the market… is one of my favourite records. It was performed and recorded on the street one hot summer day in Toronto, 2005. Actually on the stoop of a friend’s house — kind of a public concert or a type of busking removed. It was surprising to hear this music in that way. A delight too, especially as it was so gentle. This was Kensington Market, a bustling hub for trade in food and goods, and a long-time home to artists, intellectuals, and many cultures and politics at once. All kinds of paths cross in the Market, and you can hear a bit of that in this recording, softly going on all the time.
So simple—two men play small instruments quietly on the street. And yet this recording, to my ears, is alive with so many energies: free music, Japanese gagaku, Charles Ives’ simultaneity, Alice Coltrane’s psychedelia, hot jazz (only in microseconds), loosely remembered songs to hum, the sound of someone toying with something they have stumbled upon, sparkling things, elemental forces.
Two of the three instruments in this duet, the thumb-reeds and toe-synth, are more or less unique to The Guayaveras. A thumb-reed at first sounds something like a kazoo. But this first impression doesn’t last; the effect is too surreal. It transforms from mouth to bird to ventricle to homunculus in a mood. And its bent oscillations merge with the toe synth, the buzzing and tunings of which feel as though they are played with the toes, which of course they are. (This has to be the case, as the player’s hands are otherwise occupied.)
There is a quiet sense of good humour to The Guayaveras in the market… Or a pervasive affection. Love of sounds, objects, the body, the place. It’s an intimate exploration of materials. But what’s a word for exploration with no suggestion of a hero? With no will to virtuosity, no fascination, no exemplariness. A feeling-out? Ok, let’s go with that. A feeling-out of now this and now this. And before you know it, it’s gone and always was.
This and many other wonderful releases now available on Rat-Drifting’s new Bandcamp page.