August CD of the Month: David Pritchard – Evanescent

David Pritchard's Acoustic Guitar Choir on Evanescent is Echoes August CD of the Month

Many artists have tried to expand the concept of the acoustic guitar through ensembles. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the California Guitar Trio, and Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists come to mind. They each try to create an orchestra of sound, with just acoustic guitars. David Pritchard has been exploring this form for decades. He released his album Air Patterns in 1990 and has since put out several other recordings. His new album is Evanescent, and it’s the Echoes CD of the Month for August.

David Pritchard is an interesting musician. He actually started out as a jazz guitarist and recorded a couple of records in the late 1970s on the Inner City record label, a really great jazz label back then. But in the 1980s he went a different way. Inspired by the loan of a four-track tape recorder, he began overdubbing acoustic guitar tracks. The results were revealed on his brilliant album, Air Patterns. It featured him recording minimalist-inflected tracks, layering up to six acoustic guitars. It was beautiful, meticulous music with interwoven guitar patterns forming an oscillating lattice of sound.

David Pritchard’s new album, really an EP, follows suit. Evanescent is a set of minimalist tone poems for ringing acoustic guitars in circular but shifting melodic patterns. If Philip Glass composed works for Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists with a little melodic help from Will Ackerman, it might sound like David Pritchard’s multi-tracked guitar ensembles. “Tesserae,” Latin for the tiles used in mosaics, is a perfect title, as Pritchard pieces together intricate patterns worthy of the Byzantines.

The patterns sound like they might seem like simple arpeggios, but Pritchard puts the lie to that with his solo guitar piece, “Panamint.” It’s a complex track that sounds like it has to be in the finger-picking style, but no, Pritchard says it’s flat-picked which makes it even more of a technical fete. But beyond the technique, it has a pretty melody that calls out in open mountain joy, appropriate for a track named for a ghost town and mountain range near Death Valley.

Pritchard not only plays with interwoven melodies, but also the ringing overtones created by his steel-strung guitars. Sometimes they cast a heavenly light across the patterns and sometimes, as on “Resin”, cascade into cacophonous clouds. But Pritchard emerges out of the chaos with a beautiful, plaintive melody that again evolves over the course of his composition.

Even though his albums feature just David Pritchard overdubbed in fashion, he’s actually played live on Echoes three times, enlisting other musicians to replicate his multi-guitar sound. But on his new album, it’s all David Pritchard laying down his guitar melodies. Evanescent has a subtitle: Music for Multiple Acoustic Guitars. But that really doesn’t really do it. You can get lost in the arpeggios and overtones on his new EP, Evanescent, the Echoes August CD of the Month.