Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band
Chris Forsyth is a lauded guitarist, composer, and bandleader whose widescreen art-rock, fusing taut compositions and mercurial improvisations, has earned him a reputation as one of the most distinctive and critically acclaimed guitarists working today. In 2013, he assembled The Solar Motel Band, who quickly developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, The Grateful Dead, Popol Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson. Though his psychedelic leanings are undeniable, Forsyth’s music always trains toward concision — plenty of space, yet never slack—in tunes that erupt with startling swiftness, then spend the rest of their quick-burning, time-elastic lives teasing multiple moods and patterns out of deceptively simple materials. Pitchfork called his music “a near-perfect balance between 70s rock tradition and present day experimentation,” NPR Music named Forsyth “one of rock’s most lyrical guitar improvisors,” and the New York Times calls him “a scrappy and mystical historian... His music humanizes the element of control in rock classicism (and) turns it into a woolly but disciplined ritual.”After growing up on a steady diet of classic rock deep cuts and our-band-could-be-your-life proto-alternative rock in the New Jersey suburbs, Forsyth moved to Brooklyn in the mid-‘90s and expanded his palette to free jazz, underground avant-rock, and post-Kosmische experimental sounds of all stripes. His own music began to take form in the late ‘90’s - early ‘00’s improvised music scene centered around the club Tonic, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he rubbed elbows with free improv titans like Derek Bailey (who booked his first solo gig at Tonic) and jammed with players like saxophonist Daniel Carter and guitarist Loren Connors. Crucially, it was also in this period that he studied music and guitar with Richard Lloyd of Television for 18 months. In 2003 he co-founded the self-described gothic-junk-folk-expressionist band Peeesseye, a freewheeling, one of a kind trio who toured Europe and the United States consistently, playing everywhere from contemporary art museums to noise festivals to basements. Upon the demise of Peeesseye, Forsyth relocated to Philadelphia in 2009 and, inspired by the likes of his friends Jack Rose and Steve Gunn, began focusing on solo guitar playing.And this is the point when something important changed in Forsyth’s music. After over ten years of privately honing the lessons he’d learned from Richard Lloyd, Forsyth began deploying a noticeably more fluid, melodic style of electric guitar playing. While the experimental/psychedelic tendencies remained, a newfound classicism emerged, full of latent Keith Richards leanings and Jerry Garcia wanderings. But at the heart of his playing is an elegant lyricism, a command of melody and flow, reflecting the lessons he’d learned one on one from Lloyd and from countless others via recordings and concerts (Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Sonic Youth, Garcia, Robert Quine, and Michael Karoli of Can spring to mind). After a few solo LPs and a number of European and US solo tours, Forsyth was awarded a prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2011, which allowed him to expand his ambition. He recorded the LP “Solar Motel” with a pick up band of long time collaborators in 2012 –his first album as a bandleader - and the Paradise of Bachelors label released the record in 2013. The response to the record on blogs like Aquarium Drunkard and magazines like Uncut was swift and rapturous. Aquarium Drunkard called it, “some kind of masterpiece, a four-part suite of ecstatic, spiritual psychedelia that splits the difference between unabashed classic rock thrills and a spikey avant-garde sense of adventure.”Gig offers began to come in and Forsyth, who had no steady band at the time, was compelled to put together an actual band to play the album. The resulting Solar Motel Band, anchored by his longtime collaborator Peter Kerlin on bass guitar, began touring and Forsyth began writing music with the band in mind. A live album “Solar Live” followed on Record Store Day 2014, and Forsyth signed with No Quarter for “Intensity Ghost,” the first studio release credited to Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band, released in October 2014. The band toured, members came, members went - bassist Kerlin and studio keyboardist Shawn E Hansen being the lone constants – through the recording and touring of the sprawling 2016 double record “The Rarity of Experience” (No Quarter), which upped Forsyth’s critical acclaim yet further, with rave notices in The New York Times, Pitchfork, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, Relix, The Guardian, and more. Amid the instrumental sprawl, “The Rarity of Experience” also presents the first appearance of his vocals on two songs, including an incredible cover of Richard Thompson’s “The Calvary Cross.” Forsyth was now cranking out records that were perennials on year-end lists with regularity. And 2017 should be no different. Forsyth continued the evolution of The Solar Motel Band, downsizing the live version of the band to a trio (cutting the second guitar chair), and recorded “Dreaming In The Non-Dream” in late 2016 with his regular studio producer/engineer Jeff Zeigler (The War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn), in the dawn of post-Trumpist America. A shorter, sharper shock than the expansive “The Rarity of Experience,”“Dreaming In the Non-Dream”highlights the economy and rhythmic drive of his playing and Lou Reed/Bob Dylan inspired phrasing of his singing across four songs ranging from two to sixteen minutes each. In the wake of it’s release, Forsyth took The Solar Motel Band overseas for the first time for a UK tour anchored by an appearance at Green Man Festival, has an EU jaunt slated for February 2018, and has continued touring in North America.