A noted and respected figure in the New York underground music scene since the 1990s, the wealth of musical output from guitarist Alan Licht may unfamiliar to some, who better know his work as a writer. His rich and diverse back catalogue includes projects with Lee Ranaldo, Jim O’Rourke, Rudolph Grey, as well as participating as drummer 42 in the Boredoms’ 77 Boadrum performance back in 2007. He’s also a published author of the book Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories, plus a ton of magazine articles and has been a member of numerous bands including Run On and Love Child. His style is impossible to isolate, but it travels alongside minimalism, noise, punk and metal, as well as other factions of 20th century avantgarde music.
Four Years Older is his first solo album since 2009’s YMCA. It consists of 2 tracks; both developed using fragments of a solo electric guitar piece that Alan has been playing for the last four years. “Four Years Later” is a contemporary studio piece and “Four Years Earlier” is a 2008 live recording of a performance at The Electric Possible in D.C. The LP begins with the studio recording, a track composed of seven distinct guitar passages that flow together as one unified piece of music. What begins as a noisy, screeching layer of guitar shred cacophony overdrives into a harmonious midsection, only to be followed again by various passages of guitar virtuosity, and then finishes with chords that give way to a concluding drone. The second track is the aptly titled “Four Years Earlier” recorded live at the aforementioned venue. It’s a much noisier affair – even a bit chaotic, but it never sounds haphazard or unguided. Licht leads us through nearly twenty minutes of guitar mayhem, pushed through effects, climbing and ascending through arpeggiated patterns of notes and phrases that are completely unlike the work of any other guitarist.
Although it is challenging to discern what sections these two tracks actually share, Four Years Older is a mesmerizing show-and-tell illustrating the effect of time and place on a piece of music. This notion gives the album a conceptual edge, but refuses to abandon the emotional character of the piece. At its helm, Alan Licht’s guitar playing is both skilled and playful while following a trajectory of modern musical history without embracing one exclusively. (Michael Duane Ferrell)