I'm "Bullish" on Patrick Higgins' "Bachanalia"

A description of this record in Twitter-like brevity: "Sandy Bull meets Michael Hedges in a church."

Of course that short-changes everyone involved, especially the only living artist among the three: guitarist Patrick Higgins.

Mr. Higgins' Bach is crisply and often muscularly rendered, technically dazzling and exquisitely and ingeniously recorded. According to the artist:

"The record was very carefully recorded in three different environments: two different rooms at St Cecilia's Church in Brooklyn and the main hall at Future-Past Studios in Hudson NY. Each of these three spaces has quite a distinct frequency response and reverberation time, so I was particularly interested in capturing what was unique in each room from both a performance and an audio standpoint. Deep room mics were placed carefully in particular depths in each room, and in most cases only one or two close mics were used. The room or "depth" mics were used to create the ambient bed that was then re-processed, stretched, distorted, delayed, sampled, and so on.

"The microphones used for the recording included the Neumann U47 tube mic, RCA KU3A 100001 ribbon, Neumann KM56, Sennheiser "Labor" Mic, Neumann M50 and Josephson stereo pair C42s. The recordings in Brooklyn with made with portable recording rigs, while at Future-Past the recording was done on our original 24-channel Helios console and Ampex MM1000 tape machine.

"The record is a hybrid in the truest sense, live un-edited performance to analog recording, digital processing to digital mixing, analog mastering and beautifully lathed to 180 gram vinyl."

I especially like Higgins' turn of the phrase "beautifully lathed"!

As best as I can tell, Higgins sticks to Bach's musical script in his transcriptions for guitar. The innovations are in how he's chosen to record and process the performances. The varied results are mesmerizing and sonically spectacular. While some of the tracks are bathed in heavy reverb and/or "electronica", the cleanliness of the attack is at all times fully expressed, which is necessary to sustain the rhythmic strength and musical flow.

The result is a solo guitar recording augmented with an involving and grand environmental complexity. While the concept was not "the absolute sound" simplicity of a guitarist performing in a defined acoustical space, the production does produce a unique spatial context for each piece of music (most of which will be familiar to even non-classical music listeners), some grand and enormous, some more intimate, but all produced and mixed with obvious great care to produce the desired, sometimes hallucinogenic result.

The recording produces enormous acoustics spaces of great height, width and especially depth. So to get back to the beginning: if you like Sandy Bull's revolutionary Inventions (Vanguard Stereolab VSD 79191) or Michael Hedges Aerial Boundaries (Windham Hill/Audio Fidelity AFZLP 208) this is a must have. Otherwise it's just a "should have". You'll sit transfixed until the sides end, aided by an outstanding dead quiet QRP pressing. Includes a download card good for either an MP3 or FLAC file version. You can read more about this record and hear a sample Telegraph Harp Records website. This is in every way, a high quality, meticulously played and produced production well-worthy of your attention and support.

fetuso's picture

Steve Guttenberg wrote about this album a few months ago on his cnet blog. It's on my Amazon wish list and the lp is only $21; gonna have to get it.

clarets's picture

A fascinating counterpart to "Parkening plays Bach" that just has to be purchased!

Kirby's picture

Bought this album on your recommendation and loved it.The music and the sound are great. I'm sorry to admit but I have never heard Sandy Bull or Michael Hedges music. So this article has inspired me to purchase their albums that you mentioned, in hoping they are as good as you say. Thanks for the tips, keep em coming

Jim Tavegia's picture

Performance is 10 of 10 for sure.