VEAD’s Foothills Jam represent’s Michael Atonal Vick’s most recent foray into the atonal/microtonal world of the fretless guitar. As Vick has boasted on his website, fretnet.com has stated, He plays fretted and fretless guitars, and sometimes his music takes a little getting used to. The music has to be considered some sort of new genre: tongue-in-cheek avant garde. If Ornette Coleman, Bernie Worrell, Les Claypool, Frank Zappa and Spike Jones’ DNA was spliced into a guitar playing test tube baby, the result be something like Vick.
With dissonant slap bass runs, microtonal sliding licks and percussion supplemented by Todd Campbell, the music would probably make a great soundtrack to a R. Crumb comic book. Sci fi sounds and jagged and/or cartoonish riffs abound on tracks like the title track and “Cave-Ceiling Dwellers.” “Kierancely-Hyphened” is a sort of spooky Tom Waits atonal Mississippi delta stream of sonic consciousness. At times the guitar sounds somewhat similar to the japanse koto, and then before you know what’s happening Vick turns a corner again. On tracks like “Mirrored in Moving Glaciers,” by flirting with the micro tonality it seems as though Vick is interested in questioning presuppositions about music. It’s just out enough to initiate a listener to micro tonality without completely scaring anybody. There is no question that Vick can play some hip “in” music (check out themichaelvicktrip.com ), but for this date he is unquestionably stretching and/or destroying any semblance of tonal composition. For the adventurous listeners out in the sonic stratosphere who gravitate toward avant sounds by groups like Happy Apple or Buffalo Collision Vead’s new release might be worth checking out. But for the faint hearted listener who may have difficulty with dissonance or composition devoid of structure…consider yourself warned.