No, this is not a post about Barry White, his status in contemporary pop music being far from debatable. It is about the solo record of a friend, and as often with friends involved, you may excuse the cheeky bias in its favour. But is a great relief, while rereading it over and over, not to feel the need to raise an eyebrow: I can stand by it anytime, so much I enjoy it. It is not a review, despite the format and the tone might suggest the opposite; rather a bunch of reflections jotted down with the record looping.
Whereas, long ago, a good artist had to provide certainties, today he can get away with being “only” a good questioner: the crushing duty of coming up with the (always provisional) answers rests on the scientist’s shoulders. Well, in Paternity, Chris Cordoba’s first solo album, Jack Adaptor’s guitarist does exactly that: he fearlessly asks big questions. He achieves that without uttering a single word, by letting his guitar – augmented only by a succinct palette of sounds and effects – carrying out the job. The result is a very nocturnal record, full of all the shades that inhabit the night: from pitch dark to the sparse, dim brightness of dawn, from the emptiness of silence to the liquid feeling of distant echoes.
The guitar is the sole protagonist here, intended as a searching tool rather than phallic vehicle of virtuoso autism. The latter trait makes of Cordoba a 360 degrees musician rather than a guitarist’s guitarist. Neither does the much-abused term “ambient” any justice to this collection: these tracks contain the attentive listening of a multiplicity of directions by a sensitive ear. Then of course there is the biographical element of becoming a father. Cordoba has pushed that to the forefront, but fatherhood is only a unifying element, not the cause and effect of this music. These are, in my humble opinion, life itself, whose complexity and burden we are, here in the West, getting used to embrace at an increasingly later stage. It is a record about the intensity of being alive and of eventually acting as a channel to life, but stripped bare of the self-indulgence and navel-gazing that often come with such experience.
The numbers here go from the mere contemplative (a tranquillity that brings to mind the late, almost mystical soundscaping by Robert Fripp) to more actively engaging the listener, up to being blatantly impervious: here and there, some brilliant reminiscences of Bill Nelson may be heard. But instead of proceeding with the annoying guesswork of which and of whom the influences on this record are, we should focus on its straightforwardness and urgency, both conveyed by a “no-frills” recording approach: the ideas here were strong enough to sustain the risks of an impetuous release, deliberately dodging the traps of overproduction. This sense of confidence stays with you throughout the listening and turns a seemingly “difficult” experience into an effortless, rewarding one.
All in all, a defiantly beautiful set about the business of being alive.