Trey Gunn – Punkt1 and Firma (96k)(7dmedia.com. CD reviews by John Bungey)
This music “will punish casual listening”, warns the heroically named Trey Gunn. So no, you shouldn’t be cueing up Gunn’s latest behind Toto in your next socially distanced party megamix. However, clamp on a pair of headphones, turn off Snapchat, and this pair of improvised solo explorations recorded on consecutive nights earlier this year will repay your attention.
If you know Gunn’s name it is probably as a member for nine years of King Crimson, the only so-called progressive rock band who have continued to progress over the decades. Gunn plays a ten-stringed Warr guitar, a notoriously tricky beast that requires a keyboard technique and a stout back. And you can hear the influence of his mentor, Robert Fripp, Crimson’s cerebral guitarist-leader, in his angular voicings and silvery sustained notes.
Punkt1 is the more challenging proposition. You could call it avant garde, except the rest of the garde won’t be travelling this way soon. Shotgun Wedding introduces high, scuttling notes, as if from a Japanese koto, contrasted with an angry, buzzy bass – like a swarm of ants facing off a noisy intruder.
On Hopper the notes fall like water, an irregular drip becoming an anxious, frenetic cascade. Harmattan is a brief blast of whirling virtuosity. On Donkey Time the ghost of Yorkshire maverick Derek Bailey meets the Crimson King.
If all that sounds perverse rather than thrilling, then try the more approachable Firma. This is music with its brow unfurrowed. The spinning arpeggios of Glaze and Slipstone recall Steve Reich minimalism, while more meditative moments have the crystalline sound of an ECM moodscape.
The lovely Ancient of Days develops a motif that could be Arvo Pärt over nine minutes. Traverse is the Police’s Message in a Bottle refashioned for medieval monks while Jealous Star is enigmatic and Frippian. Some pieces are more sketch than fully formed composition but there’s grace and beauty here.
Trey Gunn website