Geoff Farina – Blobscape

Geoff Farina

Geoff Farina is a busy man. In addition to the albums he’s released with the bands Karate and Secret Stars, he also is accumulating a respectable solo catalogue. Interestingly enough, as all of those bands evolve, one element stands out: that of Farina’s jazzy, experimental guitar playing. It’s clear in each of those projects that Farina is reaching, trying new things, playing for the sheer joy of the sounds he’s able to make, and in the process his guitarwork gets better and more exciting.
This, then, may be the culmination of that development. Blobscape is not a real album, per se, but rather a collection of 16 pieces chosen out of more than 100 that were completely improvised. In the fall of 2001, Farina and Secret Stars collaborator Jodi Buonanno went to the Narragansett Grange Hall in Wakefield, RI, where Farina played and Buonanno painted, both working off the creative energy of the other. There were no changes made to this recording; Farina merely chose his 16 favorites.
Many critics have used words like “masturbatory” for Farina’s self-indulgent guitar playing in the past, and those critics will absolutely hate this album, for it’s perhaps the most self-indulgent of all. But rather than compiling minutes of guitar wanking, Farina is really trying to express himself through the instrument. For the most part, he succeeds on these 16 instrumental pieces. Taking a page from musicians like Charlie Parker and John Zorn, Farina allows the guitar to become the extension of his emotions and thoughts, and without other instruments or vocals to accompany, the guitar sounds really do shine on their own.
That’s not to say that this is the easiest release to listen to. Forsaking traditional rock structure, these pieces are more solo compositions than songs, as Farina blends chords and notes with a light, quick hand. At times sounding a bit like noise, at others brilliant, chiming sounds, these pieces don’t feel right on their own. Sure, they were picked out of more than 100, so they can’t flow together, but I find myself checking the tracks and surprised at how many have passed without my realizing it. They do flow together, coherent in their own jazzy experimentation.
A few pieces stand out. The and jazzy “Slurpy” is a favorite and will sit well with fans of Farina’s most recent solo album. “Chewable Resources” flows nicely around quick, almost classically played notes for a startling powerful feel, and it flows nicely into the title track, which really is the standout piece of experimental guitar. The quick progression on “Hibye” is impressive, while “Universal Indians” feels about as free-form as Farina ever gets. Some of the quieter songs, like “Piss,” make this album a nice, calming late-night listen.
No, this album is not for everyone, and I won’t be surprised if many critics pan it, but I find it a fascinating listen. This is music from the heart, played by a talented guitarist exploring his own abilities and inspiration. My only regret is the paintings by Buonanno done at the same time are not represented here in some way. It might help expand on the experience.