Songs from the Guitar Solos

by Jeremy Boyle

Chris Nosal. Philadelphia City Paper, December 1999
Sweet audio irony. This recording samples, edits and affects fragments from the guitar solos of Ace Frehley, Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and others, then renders them unrecognizable. It’s a clever idea from Jeremy Boyle, the technophile from Chicago’s indie prog-rockers Joan of Arc: make the most bold-faced moments of rock ’n’ roll into anonymous ciphers. But clever musical ideas are like guitar solos: They can either showcase a musician’s technical and artistic skill or simply emphasize his excessive self-indulgence. Boyle happens to pull off the former. He turns his ostentatious source material into delicate whispers, iridescent chimes and stammering oscillations that would make Eno and Oval smile. Boyle names the six songs after the bands from which they were borrowed. Like an alchemist he transforms the heavy metal dross of "Sabbath" and "AC/DC" into malleable golden tones and tinkling sonic trinkets. Perhaps "Jimi" explores the minor-chord musings of "Third Stone from the Sun." Maybe "Zeppelin" emphasizes the most abstract moments of the "Whole Lotta Love" bridge/breakdown. It’s difficult to decode, based on the result, the songs’ origins. Regardless, Boyle creates a productive aural ambiguity that allows the listener to invent and reinvent meaning and significance. It’s difficult to resist making thematic connections to the sources, whether they are there or not, which adds a new layer to the listening experience.

Nirav Soni, Ink 19 Music Reviews, March 2000
Let's get one thing out of the way. Although Jeremy Boyle is a longtime member of Joan of Arc, this record sounds nothing like them. Nothing. Boyle goes about as far away from the song convention as you can get. On this release, Boyle takes the conceptual nature of Joan of Arc about 3 miles farther. He limits himself to the palate of sounds created by the guitar wankery of the past few decades. Yes, you heard that right, this is an entire album of heavily processed guitar solos. Instead of sounding dry and academic as conceptual excursions tend to do, this record is filled with a warm playfulness. To say it sounds like Oval would essentially be saying the same thing as saying that Mozart and Iannis Xenakis sound alike, because they both compose "classical" music. The fact that Markus Popp and Jeremy Boyle compose within the same idiom does not make them sound the same. Boyle does not share the same fascination with timbre that Oval does. Often, Oval tracks are layers and layers of processed textures, with minimal complexity in the melodies. With Boyle, it is the opposite. On this CD, the melodies are the strongest aspect. "Van Halen" (all of the songs are named for the band the solo was taken from) we hear a short, gritty pulse soar across the stereo spectrum. Buzzes, like those created from bowed instruments, hover and float across the landscape. "Sabbath" is the longest track, clocking in an 11:11. It has a strong ambient feel, the sounds are positively lush, and the headspace created is just lovely. One of the worst things that I could see happening with this record is someone thinking that it is a "novelty." Songs From the Guitar Solos is an extremely well-crafted and honed work, whose music is capable of standing alone of both its concept and the history of its creator.