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Noël Akchoté - Adult Guitar

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Artist: Noël Akchoté

Album: Adult Guitar

Label: Blue Chopsticks

Review date: Sep. 12, 2004

Though it may seem odd for over half of an artist’s retrospective collection to be constituted by covers, in Noël Akchoté’s case, the split is quite appropriate. The versatile French guitarist is as comfortable playing the work of Sidney Bechet or Dizzy Gillespie as he is sculpting feedback and incidental guitar noise. Adult Guitar collects 20 unreleased tracks from Akchoté’s 21-year career, placing his versions of the classics in close proximity - and in stark contrast - to Akchoté’s more experimental work. Almost half of the disc’s tracks were recorded in Vienna in 2003, though Adult Guitar reaches as far back as Akchoté’s first demo, finished in 1983.

Akchoté’s straightforward versions of the tunes he covers show him to be a skilled player and interpreter, one who avoids grand statements and unnecessary flourish. Usually, these sparse tracks feature Akchoté alone, without accompaniment or embellishment: Simply a man, a song, and the intimate interaction between the two. The songs are reduced to their most skeletal forms, with the focus on the music itself, not the man performing it. Such an ego-less performance, especially on a solo artist’s career-spanning disc, is a welcome occurrence.

Not all of Adult Guitar is so refined. Experimentalism has also always been a part of Akchoté’s oeuvre, and no examination of his career would be complete without material that’s representative of this approach. Sometimes, as on “Montée 74,” Akchoté is as light as a feather, coaxing slender whispers from his instrument. “Numéro 122,” a heavy series of musical Morse code recorded over the bustle of a full Parisian café, is also a highlight.

Noël Akchoté’s career is likely far from over, so, perhaps, in 21 more years, another disc like this may appear. It’s hard to compress two decades of music into one compact disc, but Adult Guitar does it just fine.

By Adam Strohm

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