Erdem Helvacioglu: Altered Realities
New Albion

Altered Realities may be the most satisfying fusion of solo acoustic guitar playing and live electronics I've heard to date. What most distinguishes the recording is that Turkey-based Erdem Helvacioglu puts composition firmly at the forefront and designs his Ovation guitar playing and electronic treatments in accordance with and in service to that primary concern. In addition, his handling of electronics is striking for being so completely non-gratuitous; Helvacioglu never uses an effect indulgently but layers textures to deepen a given piece's particular mood and atmosphere such as when the chiming clusters of guitar literally, yes, slide during “Sliding on a Glacier” and when he surrounds the lovely single-note playing in “Pearl Border” with billowing masses of shimmering textures.

Helvacioglu is an accomplished guitarist, certainly, but also a remarkable composer. Settings like the stately and lilting “Frozen Resophonic” unfold with confidence, purpose, and, best of all, a wonderful sense of control. Like the album in general, “Dreaming on a Blind Saddle” moves through varying moods—peaceful at one moment, disturbed the next. Helvacioglu initially drowns the listener in waves of sustain, but then lets the rupturous stab of a nightmare intrude for a moment. Elsewhere, “Shadow My Dovetail” unfurls elegantly and ponderously yet also intensifies dramatically as it builds to its closing climax, while “Ebony Remains” exploits contrast by allowing a few guitar moments to be heard sans electronic intervention. Significantly, Altered Realities was laid down entirely in real-time to DAT, and, as Helvacioglu applied no subsequently enhancements like overdubs, editing, or post-processing, everything one hears is exactly what transpired in the moment of creation. That fact alone makes the stirring beauty of pieces like “Bridge to Horizon” even more noteworthy.

May 2007