Alexandre Navarro: Hozho

An album of twenty-four short guitar pieces might not sound on paper like the most tantalizing prospect, but in Alexandre Navarro's hands it turns out to be a pretty good idea after all. That's in large part because the self-taught Paris-based musician uses a sampler to treat the guitar's sound, and consequently the material ranges widely, with almost every piece offering up one surprise or another. With most of them falling within the one- to two-minute time frame—not a single one tipping past three minutes—, boredom never sets in, despite the fact that a single instrument accounts for all of the album's sounds.

Another thing one can't help but notice is that the album's mix is inordinately spacious and bright, which gives the guitar playing an amazing degree of clarity. Every echo-drenched pluck, scratch, and textural detail—crackle, pops, flutters, stutters, and slivers—is audible in Navarro's pointillistic sketches, and samples (voices, among other things) likewise resound with a similar degree of clarity. At times reflective in mood, Hozho's drifting ruminations often assume a relaxing character that helps encourage a contemplative response in the listener. There are occasions when a given piece revisits the sound design of an earlier one, a move that strengthens the album's cohesiveness.

Navarro's generous application of delay and reverb (“Enlacer doux” a prime example) strengthens the material's impact, too, and intensifies its trippy quality (e.g., “En revenant”); in fact, his use of treatments is so extensive, the tracks function less as melodic settings than as pure soundscapes albeit in miniature form. A track such as “Tu es si légère,” for instance, is so multi-layered and echo-laden, it verges on aquatic, and the fact that Navarro is able to fashion entire micro-universes of sound in less than three minutes (as he does during “Neuronunivers,” “Dub-circuits,” and “Star's Calling” as well as any number of other pieces) is impressive. There's no shortage of melody on offer either, however, as a wistful reverie such as “Déjeuner sur l'herbe” makes clear.

October 2013