Chris Forsyth is afraid of commitment - musically, at least.
By Andy Downing
Chris Forsyth is afraid of commitment — musically, at least.
Much of Intensity Ghost, the debut full-length from Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, was informed by the guitarist’s desire to keep things free and open, and the bandmates entered the studio absent any ready-to-follow blueprint.
“I try to make it so we don’t entirely know the songs before we go into the studio,” Forsyth said in an early November phone interview. “We record the basic takes like a jazz group live and on the fly … [which is] part of the whole process of allowing things to remain open.”
This openness bleeds through into the band’s latest recordings, which tend to unfurl as gracefully and as naturally as sunflower petals opening toward the sun. Album opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” sets the tone, with Forsyth and Co. exploring the tune’s immersive, vaguely psychedelic surroundings over the course of 11-plus galloping minutes. Elsewhere, the bandmates plunge into Television-inspired guitar burners (“I Ain’t Waiting” lifts the ascending riff from “Marquee Moon” in tribute to the legendary crew) and ghostly numbers like “Yellow Square,” a comparatively simmering turn that exudes controlled menace.
Forsyth’s exploratory approach to his instrument was informed, in large part, by the time he spent woodshedding in the late-’90s music scene surrounding the New York City venue Tonic, which closed in 2007.
“There were so few barriers, and such a diversity of artists doing stuff there,” said the current Philadelphia resident, who joins his bandmates for a concert at the Wexner Center on Friday, Nov. 21. “It was this melting pot where improvised music, avant-jazz, rock music and even jam band stuff coexisted, which was a huge mind opener.”
Around the same time, he started taking lessons from Television guitarist Richard Lloyd after coming across a flyer advertising his services. In the two years he studied with Lloyd, he developed a structured understanding of the instrument, and a better feel for song composition.
In a way, Intensity Ghost could be described as Forsyth’s attempt to bridge these two worlds, applying the appreciation for structure he inherited from Lloyd to the more out-there explorations of those Tonic years.
“I was receiving a real, fundamental education in how music works [from Lloyd] … but then at the same time I was running as far in the other direction as I could and seeing where the edges were,” Forsyth said. “None of it was this conscious plan, but looking back maybe this band is allowing all those elements to coexist in a way that other projects of mine in the past have not.”