Photo: Bryony McIntyre

Gary Smith


11 May 2007  •  The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead


What we wrote at the time:

Although, given all the recent coverage, it might seem that Gary Smith has suddenly appeared, (out of nowhere, ready made), his has been a long and dedicated examination of the guitar.  Stretching over 30+ years, Smith has worked with heads as diverse as English apocalyptic folk outsider Bill Fay and Japanese hell-raisers Masayoshi Urabe and (one man brawl) Shoji Hano.

Gary works by abstracting his guitar sound until there’s nothing that betrays anything like conventional approaches, touch or attack. Inscrutable, minute electric sounds are excavated by palms that smother and strangle, that wring sound from the fretboard, from behind the bridge.  Almost impossible to recognise as a guitar at all, if it weren’t for the fact that you are faced with a guitarist, right there in front of you, his sound is closer to Conlon Nancarrow and his compositions for player piano than it is to Bailey’s sound, or Fahey’s, or any other avant-guitar heroes. And it feels like a very personal abstraction, in which I would place as much emphasis on the personal as the abstraction, for the most moving aspect of his work is always the sense of untouchability, the distance that comes with such an unusual sound.