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Philip Gayle: The Mommy Row

Philip Gayle: The Mommy Row

Label:Family Vineyard
Release Date:2005

By Marc Masters | Posted 8/31/2005

If the sounds a musician makes are a subset of the noises in his head, then Philip Gayle may be insane. The Mommy Row, the new album from the New York-via-Houston guitarist, overflows with manic multitracked sounds, as plucks, bends, scrapes, and whines frantically shove and stab each other. On top of that, Gayle crams a dozen or so nonguitar sources—from violin to toy piano to “aluminum egg bar”—into his exhausting mix.

But Gayle’s primary weapon is acoustic guitar, and he uses it in every imaginable way on The Mommy Row. Dissecting his strings like a coroner does a body, Gayle reaches into your stomach and plucks guts. The visceral effect makes the 71-minute album a challenge. But The Mommy Row’s dizzying sonic variety, often more like a field recording than music, is an engaging puzzle. The creepy “Zoomly Zoomly” crafts a horror soundtrack out of creaks, whistles, and caws. “The Payphone” turns guitar strings into bleating seals and dolphins. “Yagamo” sounds like a thousand ping-pong matches taking place in the same room.

Guitarist Dean Roberts compared listening to Gayle to playing four Derek Bailey records at once, and Gayle’s pinprick, no-repeat style owes a bit to the British free-improvisation legend. But where Bailey’s records are often strikingly simple, The Mommy Row is messy, with Gayle’s precise playing overdubbed until it becomes blurrier and less tangible, but equally mesmerizing.

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