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Adrian Utley's Guitar Orchestra: In C

Album Review

Portishead man tackles Terry Riley’s orchestrated minimalism.

Portishead co-founder Adrian Utley has often been overshadowed by his bandmates, the enigmatic Beth Gibbons and bellicose Geoff Barrow. While you get the impression that he’s quite happy wrestling with antique synths away from the limelight, it’s only fair that the multi-instrumentalist be acknowledged as a major influence on that band’s sound, and a creative force in his own right.

This new version of Terry Riley’s minimalist landmark certainly demonstrates Utley’s organisational capabilities. For this recording, he assembled an orchestra of 24 musicians, including 19 guitarists, in an attempt to introduce a new textural palette to its familiar shimmering soundscape. 

The result is less nimble than the 1968 original, elegiac rather than effervescent. A worthy project then, but it’d be good to hear some original material from Utley, or even for some light to be shed on the lesser known corners of his work. 

Perhaps the attention gained through this project will urge some bright spark to reissue his 1999 collaboration with Mount Vernon Arts Lab, Warminster.

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