Essential New Music: Bill Nace’s “One Note (Solo Guitar 2)”

The title is a bit of a dare. Can you find the one note that Bill Nace plays? Good luck. The parenthetical phrase baits you further. Where’s Solo Guitar 1? Not on Discogs, and probably not in your music collection, either. Neither challenge gets to the heart of this brief and over-full recording, which is best summed up by a third query: Are you ready for one very wild ride? 

Bill Nace doesn’t record a lot of solo music. When folks like Kim Gordon, Chris Corsano, Thurston Moore, Paul Flaherty and Susan Alcorn head your long line of collaborators, why go it alone? Even Both, Nace’s recent solo masterpiece on Drag City, was really a joint endeavor with engineer/producer Cooper Crain. And the guitarist’s gifts as an instigator, disruptor and enhancer make him an ideal partner for musicians who are up for a challenge.

But if you want to hear how Nace got rolling, One Note (Solo Guitar 2) is as close to the source as you’re likely to get. It’s an early, solitary recording, made late in 2007 in Bennington, Vt. While it was released as a tape back in the day, if you weren’t at the right basement noise gig at the right time, purchase just wasn’t an option—until now.

Meanwhile, about that one note. Where is it? Probably lost in the same wilderness where tired notions of what a guitar should do go to die. Working mainly with volume and an array of agitating objects, Nace makes the guitar sound like a helicopter, fire alarm, stylus being slammed into a grimy slab of vinyl and the noises generated when bobsled meets run. He doesn’t just make these sounds; he breaks them, scatters them, then rearranges the parts like an action painter scattering paint with unerring instinct.

Cut at 45 rpm for maximum fidelity, this record enables you to hear those sounds cleave the air and carom from wall to wall. You won’t just listen to One Note (Solo Guitar 2); you’ll feel it with nerve endings you didn’t know you still had.

—Bill Meyer