Craig McElhinney: Loser Orientation

There's a roughness about Craig McElhinney's guitar playing that gives it a powerful impact. Rather than smoothing off the edges, he embraces a rawness that naturally emerges in his material, in this case three tracks laid down as solo improvisations in a single weekend in Myalup, Western Australia and a live piece recorded at the Velvet Lounge, Mt. Lawley four days later. The sessions, issued as Loser Orientation, occurred in the wake of relentless performing he did around Perth following the release of his debut album You and Me Are Young and Brutal. The production is raw too, with the material emerging in a fog of cavernous reverb that makes it sound as if it was recorded in a hollowed-out cave.

Following an introductory flourish of cymbal washes, the title track plunges the listener into an immolating zone of shuddering tones and space drones. Against a flurry of rapidly cycling patterns, McElhinney voices lyrical melodic lines during “Surfer Realisation,” and then turns to industrial sound sculpting in the textural exercise “Sex on the Beach.” All three are credible yet can't help but feel like teasers when the twenty-eight-minute “Live at Ambassador From Everywhere 14” appears. Against a sombre drone, McElhinney initially builds layers of apocalyptic shredding into an immense wave before venturing off into even more combustible territory. The guitar playing roars and convulses like some dazed and brutalized—deranged even, at times—colossus in this long-form documentation of McElhinney's so-called ‘doom guitar' technique. Fearless and uncompromising in the best way possible, the material probably won't be showing up on your average local radio station anytime soon.

February 2010