[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Etudes, by their very nature are challenges to a musician’s abilities. They are designed to improve the player’s dexterity, technical skill and endurance; you can add command of dimensional space to this list as well. David First takes a leap into what can only be described as the ether of sound. With just his guitar to guide him along the many winding roads to Rome, First executes an amazing series of studies which bring into question the very nature of that elusive vapor we call music. Yes, that is what this is. Even though you have to create the melodies and figure out where the words would go (there are none), ‘Etudes for Acoustic Guitar’ is very much an album bursting with creativity.
There will be many who won’t even make it half-way through this release as it moves along a narrow and at times impenetrable narrative. When the first notes tumble out on “Etude #3” it is not so much a beginning as it is akin to being thrown into the deep end of the pool; you’ll flounder for a bit as you gain your bearings but your ears will eventually adjust to this new, tantalizingly strange alien environment. First terms what he’s up to this time around as ‘home field recordings’ which should open up an entirely new theater of sound to play in.
I don’t know of anyone else who’d have the will to do this, he is literally allowing us into his creative process and if you don’t believe me then prepare yourself for the payoff. As we move though these twelve pieces, either by the use of repetition or resonance, you can hear him working out progressions and even the beginnings of recognizable song structure. With a bit of editing and some fleshing out he could, if he wished, fashion this raw collection into an ornate compendium. But that isn’t the goal this time out, he’s after the primordial spark of inspiration. What is on here won’t stay as it is for long, I’d imagine, David’s also been busy plundering his archives and releasing them as an on-going series under the name of ‘Data Dump’. He’s at two so far and their range -much like this album’s- is vast.
What I would suggest for maximum enjoyment here is that you play around with the track order and see what other variables are unlocked. This is only the first in a planned set of four so the gauntlet has only just been thrown down; these bare-boned compositions must have fought at every turn to elude capture until at last he’d cornered them and there was nowhere left to run. First is definitely issuing a challenge here but whether it is to himself, his audience or artistic principles in general remains to be seen. All we can do for our part is to keep playing this and prepare for the next episode in this saga.
David First – Same Animal, Different Cages Vol.1: Etudes for Acoustic Guitar