September 1997

Bertrand Gallaz
Sweet and Sour
Plainis Phare

Seemingly contradictory elements may make for a pleasing culinary experience in terms of Chinese cooking, but on this outing it adds up to questionable schizophrenia on the part of Gallaz, a Swiss guitarist who is sometimes touted as an avant garde innovator. The album is divided into two parts (three, if you count the rendition of the Swiss national anthem that concludes the album). The "sweet" portion of the program features naive, almost primitive fingerpicked electric guitar solos. With his guitar detuned, he plays in a basic, primarily triad-based chorale style, occasionally throwing in some quirky vibrato for its quasi-microtonal effect. The more boring numbers include "Under The Beaten Floor" with its gospel/country vibe, the Europeanesque "Romanze," and "Oh! Suzanna."

The tenth track ushers in the "sour" side, where Gallaz is sometimes joined by Jean-Paul Bourelly, who contributes to the mayhem. Here, practically anything goes-from extreme noise making (sometimes the result of "preparing" his guitar) to freely rambling improvisation to musical parodies of certain genres. Gallaz, aided by Bourelly in some cases, occasionally conjures maniacal sounds, textures, and moods ("From Can To Can't," "On Your Way To The Barbershop"), but in general the self-indulgence is excessive to a fault and far from artful. In short, Sweet & Sour is like an overly long joke with a disappointing punchline.

Originally published in September 1997
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