G. P. Hall -Embarkation
(Clay Pipe Music pipe005. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘I realise I may have committed the ultimate sin as far as the classical boys are concerned, writing a symphony and guitar concerto, plus coming from a working-class background in London. I have always been a maverick outsider all my life, so it’s a little bit late to start worrying about what people think.’
This is G. P. Hall, ruminating about his latest project, an album featuring his various guitars, electric and acoustic, set against a lush, multi-textured backdrop of orchestral sounds, triggered by a Godin guitar and keyboard. Previous recordings (on EBL –Esoteric Binaural Label – and FMR) have seen Hall move easily and unaffectedly between fearsome industrial sound sculptures, thundering rock beats and the most delicate solo acoustic meditations, and a friend to whom I recently played Embarkation immediately picked up on this multi-faceted appeal by discerning elements of both Robert Fripp and Ralph Vaughan Williams in the music it contains.
Hall himself acknowledged the strength of this beguiling mix in one of his previous CD titles: Steel Storms and Tender Spirits, and the music on Embarkation, which contains a half-hour guitar concerto, two shorter pieces (The Worm Forgives the Plough and Kaleidoscope of Stars) and The Trinity/Arish Mell Symphony, embodies Hall’s fascination with‘journeys, be they physical or metaphysical’, and draws its inspiration from a wide range of sources: ‘the ocean, the mountains, love, [and] a sunset behind an abandoned industrial site’.
The resulting music is romantic, evocative and touching and meditates on both cosmic matters –the cycle of life, the awe-inspiring size and splendour of the universe –and deeply personal concerns (the beauty of the cliffs at Arish Mell, close to his home in Dorset), but always conforms to Hall’s artistic mantra: ‘We were born original – let us therefore not be copies.’
Chris Parker (15/01/10)
G. P. Hall Pyroclastic Flow CD IM GPH15 As anyone who's experienced (and the word is not hyperbolic) one of guitarist G. P. Hall's live shows will know, he is as compelling when playing the unadorned acoustic instrument as he is when utilising the plethora of electronic gizmos that enable him to produce his celebrated 'industrial sound sculptures'. Here, operating mainly in the former mode (and switching as appropriate between Japanese Takamine and Spanish Contreras instruments), he produces a series of fascinating pieces discernibly rooted in flamenco, but also immediately recognisable as Hall pieces courtesy of their characteristic mix of grace and fire. 'Pyroclastic', indeed, describes rocks formed from the solid fragments ejected by volcanic eruptions, and thus is entirely appropriate as a title for this series of intense but fluent compositions, which include the striking and appropriately sparkling opener, 'Guitar of Diamonds' (also found on Hall's recent DVD acoustic showcase) and an affecting tribute to one of his greatest inspirations, Manitas de Plata. Hall's music has generally been described (as the title of this album suggests) by reference to natural phenomena, but as Kenny Mathieson recently suggested, 'at heart he is a thoroughly melodic player, and even the most abstract of his creations . colalesce around attractive melodic fragments'. This aspect of Hall's extraordinary, unique talent has seldom been as straightforwardly presented as it is on this mesmerising album, and it comes (as all his albums do) warmly recommended. Chris Parker http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/cd-reviews/pyroclastic-flow.html/
Chris Parker (04/05/06)
Anyone who's ever been fortunate enough to catch one of guitarist extraordinaire
G. P. Hall's live shows will know what to expect from the man: an utterly bewitching
combination of acoustic pieces (drawing on styles ranging from flamenco and finger-
picking to the blues) and electric excursions, many of them semi-abstract 'industrial
sound sculptures', others more straightforwardly rock- or blues-based.
The division of these two DVDs into 'Guitarist' (an all-acoustic set) and 'Electric'
(filmed by Peter Remke at London's Hope and Anchor) is therefore entirely appropriate.
The former shows the guitarist playing material such as 'Love Lies Bleeding'
(a meditation on unrequited love involving an affecting motif of descending notes), the
appropriately sparkling 'Guitar of Diamonds' and 'Gnat Bite Blues' (involving a buzzing sound
produced by the application of a nail instead of the finger pad to the guitar neck); the latter
is less of a set and more explanatory, demonstrating just how Hall produces the plethora of
sounds and effects that make up his solo live electric performances: wind-up toys, battery
shavers, modified violin bows, mechanical crickets, 'female' velcro strips etc. etc. are all utilised
to produce an astonishing variety of textures and timbres, from insect-swarm noises to
background rumbles and roars to eldritch shrieks and steelmill-style pounding.
If this makes Hall's live performances sound forbiddingly esoteric, however, it's misleading;
live, he's utterly mesmerising, his appeal extending far beyond the odd guitar-technique/effects
aficionado to embrace anyone who's ever thrilled to a head-banging rock solo, flamenco duende
or a slide/bottleneck-guitar blues piece, and these DVDs form a useful introduction to the
work of a genuine original who should be much better known.
Chris Parker, The Times
Steel Storms & Tender Spirits
"This double CD, divided between the "steel storms" of guitarist GP Hall's electronic soundscapes
or jazz-rock group work and the "tender spirits" conjured up by his (generally solo) more contemplative
music, provides the best exposition yet of his multifaceted talent.
His ability to move easily between fearsome industrial noise abstraction, thundering beats driven by
drummer Sam Brown, haunting jazz (often featuring the plangent trumpet of either David Ford or
Andy Hague) and the most delicate of solo acoustic meditations influenced by flamenco
would suffice to mark him out as a genuine original; his incorporation of a variety of additional
textures and sounds makes him unique"
Chris Parker, The Times,
January 16th 1998
"A live performance by guitarist G. P. Hall is something of a spectacle, since he conjures an
extraordinary variety of sounds and textures not only from a selection of guitars, processors and
programmers, but from less likely sources such as battery fans, mechanical crickets and
electric shavers. His music, however, has a great deal more to recommend it than mere novelty value."
"Although with clearly discernible roots in blues and flamenco, it is an entirely individual, consistently
exhilarating mix of electronic sound sculpture (ranging from insect-swarm to industrial-machinery effects),
cosmic noise, filigree acoustic delicacy and straightforward screaming electric guitar.
All this is harnessed to produce everything from hymnic meditations on natural beauty to what Hall
calls 'industrial blues'.Recorded at London's Spitz and Wiltshire's Phantom Theatre, this album should be
investigated by anyone interested in the outer limits of electric music."
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Mark Prendergast - Sunday Observer:
"His latest recording, Imaginary Seasons, a retake of Vivaldi's famous opus, certainly does not follow
orthodox lines. Each season is rewritten with didgeridoos, whistles, bicycle spokes and selective 'noises'
augmenting guitar adagios, flute sections, brass and percussion. Underpinning all this are the 'industrial
sound sculptures' "
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The Modern Dance Magazine
A Man For All Seasons
The Albums Of GP Hall
There are rhythm guitarists, and there are lead guitarists, and there's G.P.Hall. Most use it as an
instrument, Hall uses it as a medium, an interface, a series of expressions so vivid they burn.
Serving a very impressive apprenticeship via styles such as blues, hard rock and jazz, Hall played in a
variety of bands, and played with such artists as John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson, so he's
no stranger to the guitar.
The man can obviously play! However, like Eno with the keyboard, and Hassle with the trumpet, Hall
uses the instrument as an extension, using (sometimes) a variety of objects as far removed from the plectrum
as water in the Sahara. Like Fred Frith on his terribly undervalued Guitar Solos album, and Fripp with his
soundscapes, Hall creates some of the most remarkable music you could possibly hear from the humble guitar.
Marks On The Air
(Esoteric Binaural Label EBL 025)
is, unbelievably, a live album that underlines the above with such accuracy. The album itself has fourteen
tracks, the first and last are novelties (a dialogue taking us in and out of the theatre). Many of the tracks
were recorded at the Spitz Venue in London, and the Phantom Theatre in Wiltshire. Hall's notes on
each track make fascinating reading as he describes what instruments he used, as well as what
he played them with, such as Velcro, crocodile clips, and what the effects are he uses.
Figments Of The Imagination sets the scene as the six minute plus track explores the more
ambient and moodier side. The Lonely Road is a cracking, subtle piece that is just so, well, beautiful.
The title track of the album is pretty impressive, as is
New England Woods.
There's just so much colour and inspired, at times visionary music on here it's just too much to
take in. I have found that with all of Hall's albums, they just go from strength to strength with repeated
playings. A superb introduction to his music.
Mar-Del-Plata (FMR CD46)
carries on the ambiences and soundscapes that were prominent
on Marks On The Air.
This time we're treated to 13 tracks, and this time, there's no novelties. Each track is a gem, building
visions and spurring on the imagination to places even NASA can only dream of! Deep Blue kicks off the
album with some effective clustering on the piano, layered through with some stunningly effective guitar.
As with most of his albums, the sleeve notes, especially for this track, give an insight into the thoughts
and inspirations of said tracks. Spirit Sky Montana, as you can well imagine, is a beautifully relaxing
and lush piece - it's just not long enough!
and the lovely
Sierra Morena Dust Storm
are simply wonderful.
Hall has set me a real task here as I will probably end up utilising all the words in the thesaurus under
the 'brilliant' section!
Fahrenheit 451, inspired either by the film (or the story) is a beauty. Indeed, a superb album, and it's
just under 74 minutes.
As a painter, Hall would have equalled Picasso on Imaginary Seasons (CDRFP11101). The colours and
images he creates and uses are as vivid as anything I've heard in ages. To say he describes a lot of his
work as Industrial Sound Sculptures may mislead, many of his sound sculptures are not strictly
industrial, but rural, suburban, indeed, every walk of life! and often there's a sense of loneliness,
isolation and a certain sombreness that underpins it all.
There are 27 tracks in all, split into blocks under the heading of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
This album is perhaps more diverse, and recalls to mind Hall's previous flamenco, blues and jazz experiences.
Almost all the tracks are relatively short, and as such, this is perhaps a better album to familiarise the
novice to this incredible man's talents. Just feast your imagination on these titles:
Storm At Sea,
and a welcome return (and an amazingly different version) to Figments Of The Imagination -
perhaps the best on the album.
The sleeve notes aren't as detailed as previous albums due to the amount of tracks, but they
nevertheless make interesting reading.
Figments Of Imagination (FMR CD31-VO796) features perhaps one of my favourite Hall tracks,
yes, it's the title track. I've heard, now, three versions of this absolute classic, and all three are stunning.
This album leans more towards the jazzier side of Hall's influences. It features a plethora of 'guest' musicians
such as Lol Coxhill, Paul Rutherford, Lyn Dobson, Tim Hill, Matt Lewis and Sam Brown to name but a few.
Glider kicks off the album and it's a thirteen minute plus free fall. Musically it suits the title well as it
soars, dips and floats around in a variety of musical thermals. Improvisation seems to be the main key,
here, as Hall sets the foundations with a 6 string bass, as Coxhill weaves his sax in and out of the
tapestry like some ethereal needle. Spanish influences run through Rio Magdalena, with Hall solo
on the acoustic guitar - a really beautiful piece, and full of imagery - feel that sun!.
New Town Suite
, a commissioned piece, features Lyn Dobson on flute and Jeff Clyne on double
bass with Hall creating more magic on the acoustic. This piece is very reminiscent of King Crimson
circa Islands period, especially Formentera Lady. The third version of the title track makes an
appearance and it's yet another cracker. Mevva Coast, again, features Hall solo with the acoustic,
with a Mediterranean feel to it (as you'd expect with a title like that).
His skill and musical ability is second to none, and whilst this album is very different (mainly featuring
jazz and Spanish influences) it shows yet more diversity. Full Moon Over Madrid, at just under 12
minutes, seems to combine the above two major styles.
A mélange of improv jazz and Spanish which combines into a very busy piece - Coxhill, again,
on the sax. Heat On The Horizon is again, acoustic, mainly, and is dripping in mood and ambience.
The final track, Saw Mill Adagio is a slow, relaxed ten minute sojourn. This mood of Sunday afternoon
in the backwoods is helped, no doubt, by Rutherford's sleepy trombone. As Hall states in the track
notes, this was one of his first developments into his industrial sound sculptures - and it's not hard
to hear why.
Hall's final album in this overview is a double, and is probably, without doubt, his best yet. To be
fair, though, to single out any particular album would be wrong as they all have their merits and
each one caters for different moods and the music does grow with each play. It would probably take
rest of the magazine to go through the tracks on this album as the majority are in decent sized
Sixteen tracks on Steel Storms, with true stand-outs being City Signals (the live version of
this is on Marks On The Air),
Barbed Wire Bop,
Tender Spirits, the 2nd cd, has 16 tracks as well, the gems on this are Sandstorm,
The Lonely Road (which is also live on Marks On The Air), Slipstreams, Spirit Sky Montana
(another version of this is on Mar-Del-Plata),
and Sea Sorrow (another commissioned piece).
Hall's sleeve notes, again, are superbly interesting, detailing each track with instruments used,
techniques and in some cases the history. Looking back on this article, it does seem a bit much,
but I wouldn't know GP Hall if I tripped over
him (he'd probably have a guitar in his hand), so I don't owe him
anything, and I don't have to like his music. But I do like his music, very much.
I suggest you try it. As to which album...Like I said earlier, that's just impossible to say.
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Centre for Contemporary Art
G P Hall
G P Hall is not the average guitar player. He describes himself as a "sculptor of sound",
and the improvised nature of his layered creations has placed him in the avantgarde jazz
camp, but that is really only by default.
He fits most comfortably into his own self-defining mould, and while he draws on identifiable
elements - blues, flamenco, gypsy music, minimalism and hard rock - it is only to
subject them to a highly idiosyncratic transformation.
His "sculptures" are triggered by the combination of his instruments - electric and acoustic
guitar and a modified six-string bass - with a digital delay controlled in real time buy
He is notorious for the bizarre variety of accessories he incorporates into the sound
production process, from a small wind-up toy car to a strip of Velcro or a palette knife.
One of the great advantages in catching him in live performance is that it is possible to see
these physical processes at work.
The industrial noise aspects were great fun, and his unconventional aids produced some
startling effects - I particularly liked the shimmering waves generated by a crocodile clip on the
strings - as well as being inherently theatrical.
The focus on those aspects of his work tends to make his music sound weirder in prospect
than it is in reality.
At heart, he is a thoroughly melodic player, and even the most abstract of his creations tended
to coalesce around attractive melodic fragments,
while others were unambiguously tuneful.
He opened both sets on acoustic guitar, and his fingerpicking proved that his conventional
guitar techniques are sound, whatever other technical hybrids he has developed.
On electric, the plaintive open-air melody and sumptuous swells of Spirit Sky Montana
and New England Woods recalled a cross between Aaron Copland and Pat Metheny.
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Feature in Avant Magazine:
Headline: The Lonely Road
Soundtrack: Mar-Del-Plata (2.59)
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC?
"I don't think there is an easy answer to that one. I don't play just one type of music. I seem to be only
able to play my own music, some of which are Industrial Sound Sculptures. Industrial, because I use
household items such as crocodile clips, Braun battery shavers, pieces of Velcro, metal
and anything which will vibrate the strings or create the desired effect. Sound sculptures, because by
using digital sound layers on top of each other they create a multi orchestral
sound! In fact that is another aspect of my music; a Wide-Screen stereo orchestral sonic classical
sound as in my recording of' Spirit Sky Montana' on CD called 'Mar-Del-Plata'. It is a composition
influenced by Aaron Copland's music and it has those big broad digital sound spreads that pictures
standing on the plains looking at wall to wall stars. I also mix industrial with Spanish sounds,
Avant Garde noises and violent over-driven motorised air sounds, as in 'City Signals' (sounds from
an open window). 'Imaginary Music' maybe sums it up better."
TELL US ABOUT THE EQUIPMENT YOU USE?
"I use four amplification systems in two sets of stereo (900 watts output). The amplifiers are keyboard
combo's and as I tend to use a wide range of sounds by putting bass guitar, electric and acoustic
guitars, with at times electric percussion through them, they need to with-stand punishment; the
and aggression in my music. The amps also reproduce soft delicate sounds that follow a loud passage...
With this I don't have to rely on a mixing desk or sound engineer and all the problems that come with
a P.A. It's loud enough for me to be able to express myself fully. I also have to make
adjustments to each composition, so I like to be fully in control."
HOW DO YOU MIX YOUR SOUND ON STAGE?
"I use two foot volume pedals; one to give a stereo sound with digital effects out of the bottom left and
right stack, the other out of the top left and right stack with different set of digital effects. I mix the
sounds by layering one sound down first, listening to it and then adding a chord
structure or solo on
top of the sound I have created. The amount of volume in each layer depends on how much I put my
foot down on the volume pedals."
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DEVELOPING INDUSTRIAL SOUND SCULPTURES?
"About 22 years. It's not just about mixing sound with industrial noise; it only seems to work well
with a sonorous backing plus I use strong melodies. There are some 1981 recordings made at Pathway
Studios in London, where the owner, Mike Finesilver produced a lot of my earlier works. Five years
'Manifestations' and 'Harbinger' were on a CD called 'Colors - Movements'. The CD went to America and
Japan and is hard to obtain in this country. I still receive royalties from Japan where it is played
on a radio station from time to time.
Before that in 1973 I was commissioned by South Hill Park
in Bracknell to write a piece called
It was a large and complex percussive work which was centred around two specially built piano
frames. One was double decked (one frame on top of the other): the lower one having a wooden
shuttered frame built around the metal frame and the one on top
had the metal frame bolted over
the top of the wooden shuttered frame. This gave a different soft tintinnabulation sound to it, where
as the other one, a single decked shuttered piano frame, was tuned with mainly percussive chords.
These two would be struck with wooden mallets, metal hooped wires, steel
chains and tympani
The frames were built by myself and they lay at 45` off the ground. To distinguish what section
had to be hit, I took out some of the strings and then made them into banks of tuned chords.
It was also scored for guitar, bass, clarinet, glockenspiel, hammer dulcimer and
'The Estates' was written to depict the breakdown of established communities to make way for the
New Town of Bracknell. I still have one of the earliest formats of video, shot in 1974, on a Sony reel to
reel of the two performances I did at South Hill Park Arts Centre. The 1975 live sound
performance, was edited at Pathway Studios in London, by Mike Finesilver from one hour down to
THIS PIECE HAS NOW BEEN RE-MASTERED AND IS AVAILABLE ON CD CALLED 'MAR-DEL-PLATA'
along with other tracks of more recent recordings."
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR 6-STRING BASS GUITAR, THE BOWING,
THE TECHNIQUES YOU USE AND DO YOU PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS
OTHER THAN GUITAR?
"It is a Shergold custom built, converted by me so that I have frets up to the 7th fret and from there on
it's fretless so I have a funky and fretless sound instantly at my disposal. It is dark cherry with
aluminium fittings, I have had it about 18 years and it's the only one of its kind as far as
I sometimes play flamenco on this, e.g. 'Flying Ants' where I play a soleares flamenco rhythm, put
through a chorus and a ME-6 guitar processor with a distorted over-drive, add to that a programmed
hip hop anarchic shuffle beat - all this put through my powerful back line and as someone once
commented; it sounds like a B-52 bomber hitting an express train with insects buzzing around...
I use a psaltry bow on the first and sixth E-strings of the bass which gives it a sawing effect and
put that through
delays to give me a bass cello orchestral sound, as in 'White Wilderness'; first I have an untreated
sound, then one top set of stereo delays are pumping out the music (by pumping I mean strike first
then swell up on the volume pedal), then by moving the foot quickly to the other volume pedal the other
set of speakers are producing a different sound. Other instruments...most stringed instruments,
piano, keyboards and soprano sax when needed."
SEE TECHNIQUE FOR MORE DETAILS
DO ALL YOUR COMPOSITIONS HAVE EFFECTS?
"No! I was trained in classical, blues, rock and flamenco (my favourite section was always the
adagio, Samuel Barber's OP 11a, which still moves me). I studied these techniques, then went my
own sweet way. Some techniques I invented myself. I have composed acoustic/flamenco pieces
where I use the
thumb on the left hand as an added finger on the fret-board by balancing the
guitar on the knee, pressing with the right arm-elbow and counter balancing the four fingers and
thumb that is on the fret board. It was painful at first and took some time to perfect."
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE GUITARIST?
"Manitas de Plata, Hubert Sumlin and John Ellis the guitarist and composer has a nice CD out
called "Acrylic", that I like very much, I never seem to tire of "Wide Asleep" by Michael Manrig.
I was impressed by Hans Reichells and Uwe Kropinski's live performances. These days I
get much opportunity to listen to a lot of music as I have a new large family, which takes up
most of my money and a young daughter of nearly three, who takes up all my excess energy.
I have to spend so much time on my own music that some days I want to switch off...natures
imagination is where I get my inspiration."
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY YEARS?
"In my teens I was in a band called 'The Odd Lot'. We ran a blues club, where beside us, we had
really well known bands appearing there and I often got to play with them. In my twenties I was
playing at The 100 Club, The Middle Earth and The Round House and I toured around Europe
band 'The Governors'. I was in demand and I had a future. Then my career was
cut dramatically short... I was traumatised by a situation of events beyond my control... I was
in the wrong place at the wrong time and the experience left me mentally, physically and
spiritually bankrupt. As the trauma took
hold, it took my confidence and self worth. I took
comfort and solitude in alcohol and other escape mechanisms that took me to places
I didn't want to go. I was lost in what I call the wilderness years. I became homeless and
penniless three times and eventually after 15 years of hell, I ended up in a
At first it was just years of depression and incongruous redemption and trying to obtain a
reconciliation with the past. Then I started to communicate back into the real world via my
music and at first it was a real hard slog. But as if to compensate, I had extraordinary insights.
I am sober today and lead a relatively ordinary life and I really value that. I could not perform
my music in any other way other than with a clear head, because it requires so much concentration.
It was an isolated and lonely road, but I do appreciate the people who helped me in financial and
supportive ways and gave me encouragement when I had many setbacks."
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU?
"I will never be able to make up for my missing years and that is something that has been
hard for me to come to terms with over the years. I would like to play more festivals and clubs
as a solo guitarist. I never feel more alive than when I am on stage playing. I hope to get three
more CD's out
in the future. I have made four library CD's for the film, TV and advertising
One of them is called 'Rich Mans World' which is funny as for 15 years I lay gazing at the heavens
through the holes in my tennis shoes... In September -97 I am going to the Isle of Skye and Lewis
to play two
concerts and perform a commissioned work called 'Sea Sorrow' and in December -97
I am hoping to perform solo at some concerts in aid of the homeless with a lot of established
artists - possibly at the Barbican in London or at Wembley plus three or four other cities."
"Don't go into punishment park be in the fun park". GP
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Sound on Sound Magazine
I it's probable that anyone reading this article will never have heard of Graham Peter Hall.
it's probable too that anyone interested in the music I've discussed here would appreciate his
substantial work and vision.
Born during the Second World War in London, Hall was involved with the rhythm and blues
scene of Graham Bond, graduated through the great English blues revival of the mid 1960s straight
into the psychedelic blooming that surrounded such clubs as the Roundhouse
and Middle Earth.
His interest was then and still is mechanical sculptures in music.
Gigs were played where pianos were dismembered and the debris attacked with a hammer.
Conversely, Hall studied the classics and lived with a band of gypsies in the South of France for
years improving his guitar style.
As long ago as the early 70s Hall reeling from the excesses of the 60s involved himself with the
authentic side of new age awareness by writing /producing and performing regularly at the
East/West Centre in London.
Despite this interest don't imagine that his music consists of long-winded, mellifluous instrumental
In fact, it's quite distinctly different, as Hall explains: "I'm not interested in long repetitive cycles.
Sound passages, adagios on
guitar/synthesizers and mechanical sculptures are all utilised to
give a total inner and outer experience. Someone once described my music as like listening
to Vivaldi walking across a building site!
I use things like a Braun shaver, Velcro and crocodile clips on my guitars to create unusual
The sound of say a hair dryer being put through pickups and out through loudspeakers is
immensely interesting to me."
Yet Hall's use of appliances has got nothing to do with the industrial noise of say Einsturzende
Neubauten or Test Dept, but is made an integral part of satisfying emotional compositions that take
the listener on a journey through different phases, mental
locations, and states of feeling.
Of his many albums Movements (Colors 1986) serves as diverse introduction to his complex
but beautiful world.
A more recent recording featuring a fascinating array of orchestral sounds produced electronically,
entitled Borrowed Time, will be released some time in the near future.
One very good compilation of new instrumental music on which G.P Hall appears is Colors:
The Collection (Kenwest '86).
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Margen Magazine Spain
Date: 08 April 1999
GP Hall Steel Storms & Tender Spirits (2CD's) (66:32-66:08) FMR Records
GP Hall is a very original guitar player. His list of influences includes blues, flamenco, jazz and hard
rock; and to that we can add ambient music and electronics.
He's supported Deep Purple, The Hollies and Chris Farlowe among others, and lived with
gypsies to assimilate the "duende" of the flamenco guitar.
This is his fifth album to date - he's previously released "Imaginary Seasons", "Marks On The Air",
"Mar-Del-Plata" and "Figments Of The Imagination", and appeared on the "Eclectic Guitars"
alongside Frank Zappa, Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell and John Zorn.
Critics relate that he "is at the conjunction of the styles of Robert Fripp and Derek Bailey, the
place where John Falls courts David Torn and where Thurston Moore deconstructs
We know that this seems exaggerated but, having had our turn at listening to his back
catalogue and listening to his new work, we are beginning to give credit to such opinions.
This musician mixes the most wonderful melodies and the most beautiful chaos in his music.
Hall seems to be always close to the edge; that abyss that the great instrumentalists alone
are able to avoid. His albums (and this latest is no exception) provide a
heyday for eclecticism,
as a flamenco guitar suddenly winches itself into jazz, then straightaway becomes transparent
and enters the textural terrains of contemporary ambience. Only God - and, probably, Hall -
knows the secret to mastering so many music styles and not sounding pretentious: I, my
recognize that I don't know it. But still, at least I'm in the position to recommend you this work
as an imaginative and varied sample of all type of sounds passed through the filter of
If you can imagine a broken mirror as a bundle of light passes over it and strews light rays in many
directions, you'll have an approximate vision of the music of G.P. Hall. It may not always please you,
but we are sure that you will never be bored with this
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Dann Chinn - Misfit City
Marks on the
Air Mar Del Plata
Another guy who knows how to create an atmosphere is G.P. Hall, whom "Misfit City" first came
across at the Unknown Public Holiday back in 1996. A whole days worth of experimental
musicians with jammed CD players, mutant MIDI-ed trombones making
weird slidey noises
and not much else, astringent orchestras mixing it with art-rock drummers, all-in jazz wrestling
with pop standards from the brilliantly perverse Billy Jenkins, and a rare steroid-laden synthpop
performance from Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin.
One of those things you just have to go for, risking an absolute barrage of pretentious
hellwhackery for the possible glances of wonderment.
So, into all of this high art ambles a bloke in a fedora, playing a Stratocaster with a
pocket fan and Velcro. Sounds like a joke. Nope.
He stole the show with the most natural, communicative and affectionate performance
of the whole day. And some of the most accessible music. One of those times when a
gamble pays off.
Future Music Records
"Marks On The Air"
Esoteric Binaural Label
(both CD-only albums)
Still clearing out the accumulated tapes of an inexplicably neglected career,
Graham Peter Hall is continuing to come up with the goods. He's had thirty years of uneasy
development on the rocky, unrewarding terrain between the simplistic sureties of the rock
instrumentalist and the equally complacent indulgences of the full-on avant-garde blower.
And it's brought him - if not financial reward, or a brittle and precious reputation among
the pseudo-intelligentsia - a stock of lovely, emotive music.
Certainly he's managed to remain one of Britain's most individual and complete guitarists
over that time. He's immersed himself in experimentation via technology (multiple speakers
and pedal processors; vast, slow delay loops), bizarre techniques and plectrum
(battery fans, tiny psaltery bows, electric razors, toy cars and Velcro, among others:
Thurston Moore, eat yer heart out), and through the textural suggestions of his "industrial
sound sculptures" (light industry, that is - Hall's mimicry is closer to a handsaw or
governor motor rather than Reznor-ish car-crushers or stamping presses).
Yet he's somehow never lost the ability to embrace expressive tunes or to weave a
handrail of familiarity into his sonic constructions: perhaps that's why
"Wire" types don't seem to go for him. He can get in your face with the best of them,
but it's generally in order to touch your sympathies.
"Mar-Del-Plata" is by far the most accessible and diverse of Hall's compiled-work
albums this decade. It's a tour across a loose-but-affecting composing and performing
imagination that ranges with restless compassion across a wide field - sometimes
skittering, willful flamenco performance; sometimes sounding like Cocteau Twins
doing home improvements in the Mediterranean; sometimes the sort of individual,
humanistic New Music improv you'd expect from someone like Simon H. Fell or Fred Frith.
But though the record's full of experimentalism, Hall's sense of melody is at the forefront,
and the predominant voice on "Mar-Del-Plata" is his masterfully expressive Spanish
This can usually be found angling over long aching stretches of choral electronic humming,
plangent violin and eerie ambient sounds called up from the industrial processors: like a
half-unplugged take on a Robert Fripp Soundscape where guitar textures span out
At other times, it's taking on the simple directness of a folk tune: "Ionian Waters" dance
of sparkling acoustic lights, "Mar-Del-Platas" staccato accented Latin melodies underpinned
by a geological murmur of bass, or the final hot gusting
of "Sierra Morena Dust Storm"
where the gut strings spit and scatter in rich melody, reaching new heights of sinewy
passion, Hall bowing winnowing textures from the electric guitar accompaniment
with serrated steel bars from his box of implements.
Where technology does play a more direct role, Hall's humanity doesn't falter or go under.
The hymnal swells of billowing electric warmth on "Spirit Sky Montana" are the most
beautiful and enveloping sound on the record (somewhere between Bill Frisell's cinematic
romance and David Torn's eccentric stringwarps) and tap deeply into church
and Romantic composing.
"Humidity Despair"'s trickle of wind chimes, languorous piano, and enveloping sighs
provides a gusting, luxurious impression of a sultry night, and is lush enough to lean
right back into.
Some tracks, fleshed out by sound-loops and D.I.Y. treatments, are detailed, impressionistic
oil-paintings in music and tone.
"Deep Blue" sounds like someone chain sawing up a frozen Alpine lake, its jangling
piano chords and thumping bass a mass of irregularities; and "Plutonium Alert"
(in which Hall wholly abandons guitar for soprano sax and the ring of auto-harps)
goes for an all-out sensory mix of apocalyptic after tones, tangles of bell-sounds
and aggressive Grappelli violins entangling with a spasmodically awkward funk rhythm,
like an outtake from "Starless And Bible Black".
"Charmouth Beach's" smear of bright spring-loaded colour flow rings beautiful alarm
bells, and the menacing bass growl of "Enigmatic" feels like a cave-bear thumping
around in your dreams; squeaks and rattles from fingerboard and autoharp
in slow disquiet, enclosed by knocking metal.
Weirdest and most satisfying of all is "Fahrenheit 451" where juddering guitar, saw
sounds, the shriek of a whistling kettle, and treble-y scratching all mix like toxic vapours
under heavy pressure and plaster your neck hairs back against your rising
It's the centrepiece, "The Estates", which pulls all of "Mar-Del-Plata's" elements together.
A version of a 1975 long-form composition, it blends the chiming, restless clatter of the
improv ensemble with Hall's own quiveringly angry solo acoustic guitar.
Dulcimers, clarinets, a huge array of percussion, and the ominous scrapes and
clangs of two adapted metal piano frames (played like harps with assorted chains,
wires, and implements) all seethe and pant over twenty-five minutes of desperate
The theme was the blight of communities and architecture by crappy British urban
programming, and it comes across: pulses of frustration and alienation hurl themselves
against the confines of the music, and Hall's panic-stricken playing conjures the nightmare
of new roads and buildings swarming over beloved landscapes like a horde of locusts.
In the sleeve notes, Hall gives a blood'n'guts description of the struggle it took to get
"The Estates" together. Some of the manufactured instruments, apparently,
continue to drift through the art world with a life of their own.
The piano frames were last seen as part of a "fire sculpture", still counter-invading the
The scattered effects of the attempt to capture all of Hall's ideas across a single
CD does mean that "Mar-Del-Plata" narrowly misses the Thing of Wonderhood it's
aiming for, but its a close-run thing.
Throughout, we get the sort of peek at Hall's open heart (warts, gooey patches
and all) that most experimental musicians, wired into their own intellectual dryness,
would never risk expressing.
On "Marks On The Air" (an album of live recordings from concerts in London and
Wiltshire), it's even more pronounced.
Like "Mar-Del-Plata", "Marks On The Air" enthuses and expounds to the full
capacity of a CD: and by this point the eccentricity is unashamed. To make the record,
Hall teamed up with binaural recording whiz Mike Skeet, whose voice you can
running up stairs and heading down in lifts, bookending the concert with the nattering
enthusiasm of a "Playschool" presenter, and popping any remaining hopes of arty
detachment. Still, it adds to the warmth of the atmosphere Hall's live playing
induces, and Skeet's superb recording
techniques (his miking technology directly
mimicking the reception of ears on a human head) presents the music in the
enveloping, directly tactile environment it requires.
Except for the oddly truncated applause and the removal of Hall's shy, uncontrived
audience chat, it's as close to one of his concerts as you're going to get without
leaving your home.
Compared to "Mar-Del-Plata's" more assured sonic constructions, "Marks On The Air"
is less sophisticated, more risky and equally ambitious: a one-man show
relying on how much G.P. can get out of his hands and immediate loops and still
keep an audience entertained. But with four big speakers and the usual collection
of guitars, pedals and unorthodox guitar-abusing sundries, he's at least well-armed
to do that.
And the clean rattle of his drum machine lends the whole enterprise an
endearing extra dimension of naivety.
Live, he can be tempted into more direct, rockist statements, as is shown in the
tremendous scrunch of flamencoid six-string bass in "Flying Ants"' - gypsy guitar
with helicopter blades for fingernails - which flicks between tremendous chocolately
gurgles of sound and impenetrable hedges of distorted overload.
Or in the impressionistic heavy metal of "City Signals" and "Uncharted Territory" -
searing, swaggering, chromium-blues lead lines; rippling prolonged ambient
humming and indistinct conversation recordings filling the gaps like smog pouring
into a heat haze; the slow rolling pummel of drum-sounds.
There's a strong sense, again, of his pictorial approach to music. "New England
Woods" is cut from the same lambent swelling cloth as "Spirit Sky Montana",
and "Docklands" attempts to recreate the brazenly lively colourfulness of
industrial sunset, the shambling drums lopsided, whooshing saw-sounds and
lemon-sharp guitar echoes pressing out the skyline. The hypnotic "On Every
Life" goes further into the wilderness, nodding to Native American rhythm patterns
and calling up the feel of a parched Arizonan
desert view. The delicate whine
and rush of the guitar patterns swop between impressions of the dry, red heat
and dust and of the shocking whiteness and colours of the tasselled fragments
of cloud: notes call and repeat, tranced out. Towards the end there's a moment
when it all stops but for a faint
swirling echo, as if the whole desert was looking
upwards; before the mass of sound crams back in again, like a cloudburst.
Best of all, perhaps, is the build-up of "The Lonely Road". The coalescing of
sustained sorrowful coats of sound, of small factory sounds and tinges
embracing a tired old worker's knotted muscles at the end
of the day.
The human focus comes in via the twanging, panging Frisell pluck of Hall's
guitar, and especially from the endearingly rough burst of busker's harmonica
that wafts over the floating sorrow, brave and defiant, answered in kind by the
elephant-trumpet of a
All in all, despite the odd bit of bluster, "Marks On The Air" goes further towards
expressing Hall's gently appealing emotional nakedness as player and creator.
What he sometimes loses in the grace stakes, he gains back in honesty and
There are a couple of unselfconsciously winning little cameos of "tiny music"
that could've come from a children's theatre: the clipped zithery melody of
"Chinese Firecrackers", against which drum sounds pop and clatter, and the
simple yet exquisite acoustic child- song patterns of "Suvi's Little Crickets"
which regularly rests while a boxful of mechanical insects, chirping peacefully,
are orbited around the mike.
And further hints into the private man are suggested by "Alcharinga's" deep
pulsing chant (in which guitars are abandoned altogether in favour of throat-
singing through an old answering machine mike) or "Marks On The Air" itself:
mournful classical study swept back and forth in eddies of echo,
resigning itself beautifully to its own impermanence.
G.P. Hall manages to be the garage player among the avant-garde, the warm-
hearted soft touch among the arthouse players, the naive wonderstruck kid
in the crowd of post-adolescent posers, the transfigurer of the straight, and the
benevolent ghost in the
Not a bad set of credentials, at that.
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"fearsome industrial noise abstraction,
thundering beats and the most delicate of solo
acoustic meditations ...a genuine original"
A LIVE performance by guitarist G P Hall is something
of a spectacle"
Chris Parker The Times.
"Steel Storms & Tender Spirits provides the best exposition yet of his multi faceted talent."
Chris Parker The Times.
"I am really impressed with the originality"
Beverly Hills International Film Inc.
..."It's a six-string kaleidoscope. Air turned into light. An orchestra in an amplifier and
a drawerful of oddments. It's all this and more"
Dann Chinn Avant Magazine.
G P HALL.. manages to be the garage player among the avant-garde, the
warm-hearted soft touch among the arthouse players, the naive wonderstruck kid
in the crowd of post-adolescent posers, the transfigurer of the straight, and the
benevolent ghost in the
machinery. Not a bad set of credentials, at that..
Dann Chinn Misfit City
"Some of the sounds he gets out of his guitar are spooky"
Mark Prendergast Altair 5
"I was at the Q.E.H. London and saw your wonderful performance, watching you
play reminded me of why I started playing in the first place"
John Ellis (Stranglers Guitarist).
"Hall's music is, before anything else, a spiritual art. His well composed
music dives deep into one's mind. Hall creates sound sculptures which he
enriches with his beautiful melodies"
Volker Seimans Collossus Magazine Finland.
..."A music without any age on the edge of the infinite"
Tangentes magazine France.
"The sound was mixed instantly by Hall and digitally returned to the audience.
The program is multifarious.
The musicianship is admirable"
Frank Rubolino Cadence USA.
"....But its his production, composition, and arranging, that have marked this disc
as a organic fusion of Flamenco
and jazz sensibilities....
Dale Smoak Cadence USA.
...I particularly liked the shimmering waves generated by a crocodile clip on the strings...
Centre for Contemporary Art
...Meeting with Jimi Hendrix in The Roundhouse and playing with Graham Bond
seemed to be everyday adventures to a young guitarist eager to make his name
on the London scene..."
Mark Prendergast Sunday Observer
"for me the high points included one straight acoustic evocation by G P HALL"
"I particularly enjoyed SANDSTORM G P HALL'S acoustic impression of
an African desert
MAIL ON SUNDAY
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