I'm Not A Gun: Solace
City Centre Offices

The fifth full-length by I'm Not a Gun, the collaborative venture from LA-based DJ and Palette label head John Tejada and Berlin-based guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto, doesn't depart dramatically from the template established by the duo's previous releases. That's no bad thing in this instance, however, as Solace is as fresh as a cool breeze on a sweltering summer's day. As listeners familiar with the project well know, I'm Not a Gun presents a very different side of Tejada: in place of the dance producer known for the clockwork beat precision of his tech-house tracks, his work with Nishimoto finds Tejada drumming with a looseness appropriate to the jazzy, free-flowing style of the material. Nishimoto, a classically trained guitarist who studied under premiere players such as James Smith, Scott Tennant, Bill Kanengizer, and Brian Head and was mentored by jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch, is an equally forceful presence on the album. Nishimoto's elegant, textural approach to the instrument is all over the album.

Tejada's drumming skills are nicely showcased in “Big Steps” when he powers a languorously swinging groove with a hard-hitting attack that's vaguely reminiscent of John Bonham or Tortoise's John Herndon in the punch of its bass drum and snare patterns (an equally strong attack powers “In Sepia,” “Cold Dream,” and the funky closer “Fields of Autumn”). While the pair keep things natural most of the time, an occasional electronic dimension seeps in. “Colored Sky, Colored Mind,” for instance, is anchored by pulsating patterns more characteristic of kosmische musik than fusion. “Music for Adults” likewise locates itself within an electronic stratosphere where guitar figures function more as texture than melodic lines.

The album's ten pieces aren't meandering improvs but instead focused, five-minute instrumental songs possessing clearly etched themes and moods. They're not vehicles for virtuosic displays of guitar prowess either; soloing per se is downplayed if not absent altogether, with I'm Not a Gun instead preferring to drape chiming lattices of electric guitars (and, to a lesser degree, acoustic) over the bottom end. Neither is Solace some wrist-slitting plunge into darkness; if anything a mood of measured euphoria infuses much of the material (e.g., “Cold Dream,” “Red or Yellow and Blue”). If there's admittedly little revolutionary about Solace, it's nevertheless a satisfying listen, which helps make the group still seem like a viable project seven years after the appearance of its debut outing Everything At Once.

October 2010