Jeff Pearce

Using just an electric guitar, a brush, a few boxes and pedals, Jeff Pearce has taken the sound of the guitar further over the past 20 years than many of his ambient guitar contemporaries... quite different from the post-rock sounds of Hammock or The Slow Dancing Society, for example, where the sustains and reverberations usually easily identify the instrument being played.

artist:
Jeff Pearce

country of origin:
USA

style(s):
Ambient guitar, spacemusic, post-rock

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential releases:

  • The Hidden Rift (1995, Ancient Sun/JP Music)
  • To The Shores Of Heaven (2000, Hypnos/JP Music)
  • The Light Beyond (2001, Hypnos/JP Music)
  • Bleed (2002, Hypnos/JP Music)
  • In The Season Of Fading Light (2012, JP Music)
  • With Evening Above (2014, JP Music)

Reviewed by Mike G

I saw American guitarist Jeff Pearce play at the Ambicon 2013 festival in California and it was fascinating to see how he actually produces his sounds. With very little, it turns out. Using just an electric guitar, a brush, a few boxes and pedals, he has taken the sound of the guitar further over the past 20 years than most of his ambient guitar contemporaries. He's quite different from the post-rock sounds of Hammock or The Slow Dancing Society, for example, where the sustains and reverberations usually easily identify the instrument being played. While Pearce often writes compositions on guitar and Chapman stick that sound like guitar - a style which defined both his 1993 debut and quite a few albums since - his signature sound for many ambient fans is big, spaced-out chords and clouds of tone, arcing across space and stretching into infinity, the source no longer identifiable.

His excellent second album The Hidden Rift (1995) is the best of his 90's releases and finds him starting to go deep, with slow plucked strings often draped in delicate veils of lush synthesised sounds and sometimes disappearing altogether into floating, extended harmonies. The 20-minute title track is all synthesised textures, but it's also quiet and small and intimate like some of Brian Eno's shorter pieces; at this point in his career Pearce was yet to embark on his epic spacemusic voyages.

A series of highly regarded albums on indie label Hypnos around the turn of the century includes three of his very best. To The Shores Of Heaven (2000) and Bleed (2002) both segue gently back and forth style-wise like The Hidden Rift but the sound is now denser and lusher, even on Bleed's seemingly straight-forward guitar pieces. The Light Beyond (2001) heads deep into the cosmos and remains his best spacemusic album. "A Farther Shore" somehow holds together for all of its 43 minutes, morphing and swooping and slow-diving through lush suspended harmonies and wordless vocal textures, all astonishingly done on the electric guitar.

In The Season Of Fading Light (2012) and With Evening Above (2014) are the pick of his more recent releases. The former is a big surprise: Jeff Pearce writing and playing (mainly) solo piano to great effect. It's a bit like George Winston on his best days but with an added layer of melancholy and sadness, a quality that's not surprising given that the album was a charity effort to help the United States through a wretched drought in 2012. With Evening Above (2014) returns to more familiar territory and captures his plucked electric guitar and droney, cosmic loops in fairly equal measure. Best examples of the former are "Evening Above" and "A Closed Circle", two utterly gorgeous harmonic progressions with echoing notes that sparkle and fade like the crystallised light of a slow-moving kaleidoscope. On the drone side, the album's highlight is "No Matter How Far", 21 minutes of beatless electronic spacemusic. It's a simple two-chord loop that morphs through layered, widescreen textures that variously sound like strings, synths, choir and liturgical chanting.

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