William Gregg: Source of the Hardware

gregg_sourceWilliam Gregg makes his entrance into the ambient and electronic world with a set of live electro-acoustic pieces. Having this disc on hand has led to those moments when a song comes up in shuffle and catches my attention. More than once I’ve picked up my mp3 player in moments like this, and there was William Gregg. On these pieces, Gregg improvises on guitar or violin over an “orchestra” of synth sounds, and thus gives us a workable blends of deep electronics and familiar, organic sounds. “Nocturne 2” is a good example. Gregg places a cool, coiling bit of synthesizer buzzing in our ears, then offsets it with a lovely, slow melody on acoustic guitar. “Circular Path” is a  soft, folksy song that sings over spinning curls of synth. The title track is a New Age-style keyboard piece full of flourish and drama and slow beauty. It’s not straight-up piano, however; there’s a raw edge to the sound, a slight fuzziness that resonates off each note and gives it a more electronic feel. And then there’s “Intelligent Universe,” a good classic spacemusic piece, full of big, floaty synth pads. Gregg folds in some violin, grounding the piece and lending it extra texture. But it’s not all soft and fuzzy here. On “Diabolus,” he adds a hint of darkness and unease through dissonance, both in the drones and in the guitar itself. A few pieces here play with dissonance, and while I like that Gregg challenges himself and his listener with it, to a slight degree the harder pieces like “Diablous” and “Invocation” do a minor disservice to the quieter pieces here by jarring the flow. My opinion may be swayed by how much I enjoy the softer side of Gregg’s work, which makes up the majority of the disc. Let it also be said that while the dissonance presents a challenge, it also highlights Gregg’s ability because he never loses the reins with it. It exists in service to the composition and isn’t just there to grate in contrast.

Source of the Hardware is a solid debut that caught me by surprise. In his notes, Gregg relates that he released the pieces only after audiences at his live shows kept requesting him to do so. To which I say, thank you, William Gregg’s audiences. This disc feels like a precursor to more, deeper explorations from Gregg. There is a hint of restraint in the music here which sometimes renders it a little thin–and let’s understand that this may be a totally subjective thing on my part–so I look forward to hearing what he can do with full confidence and an audience ready for more. If his live improv’ing is this listenable, I imagine a straight studio effort would really shine.

Available from CD Baby.

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