This Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp article was written by Joel Gehler, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Chris Forsyth is now one of the torchbearers for bringing guitar music into the 21st Century, carrying on a tradition that has been at the heart of rock and contemporary music since the sixties. At first thought, a whole record of guitar led instrumentals could easily be dismissed on the basis that surely we’ve heard it all before – guys with long hair soloing for minutes on end for their own self-indulgence. However Forsyth has always gone for creating an atmosphere and emotion to his music that doesn’t require lyrics and ultimately gets to the heart of what instrumental music is all about.
His last record with The Solar Motel Band, 2014’s ‘Intensity Ghost,’ is a perfect example of what heights guitar music can achieve in the modern day – with special attention given to ‘I Ain’t Waiting’, a fantastic reimagining of Television’s Marquee Moon. Whilst Forsyth’s work with The Solar Motel Band has been changing as their sound has become more fully realised, it is an interesting departure to see Forsyth move away from a rock band surrounding and towards electronica with the help from Koen Holtkamp.
Firstly, this is an intriguing collaboration seeing as in many circles it is believed that synths and electronic music are slowly but surely killing guitar bands – in the mainstream at least. However, over the years we have even seen rock purists branch out their sound to incorporate synths, so this move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to fans of Forsyth’s music. ‘The Island’ begins slowly with the synth and feedback driven ‘Sun Blind’. Whilst different music ideas come to the fore throughout the track, it results in a clash of ideas as the guitar feedback takes away from the synth melodies and the only clarity comes from the strummed acoustic guitar that appears too late.
‘Long Beach Idyll’ follows with easily one of the stronger pieces on ‘The Island’ as the stunning acoustic guitar invites you in with a simple chord structure that supports the roaming guitar melody above it. This is more familiar territory for Forsyth with the use of Holtkamp’s synths subtlety adding depth to the sound, creating a lush soundscape. This is followed by the heavier ‘Alternator’ which is driven by delayed guitar that isn’t too far off a kraut-rock sound. Whilst the simple melody is interesting and continues to build as the track moves along, it doesn’t ever seem to go anywhere and ultimately falls a bit flat.
‘The Island’ finishes strongly with the near 10 minute ‘Cosmic Richard’. Forsyth uses a lovely liquid tone soaked with delay throughout as different musical motifs float in and out as the track flows along. Tracks like this reward repeated listens as more intricate moments become increasingly apparent the closer you listen.
All in all there is enough within this release to interest fans of both Chris Forsyth and Koen Holtkamp yet there is an underlying feeling that there is greater potential from this collaboration. There are two tracks that fully immerse you in the sound, and in these cases there is not much more you can ask from instrumental music. However ‘Alternator’ would have benefited from a few more ideas whilst ‘Sun Blind’ fell victim to a clash of too many ideas.
‘The Island’ is out on the 16th October via Trouble In Mind Records.