Multi-textured guitar sounds will fill the Blue Moose tonight

BY TOMMY MORGAN JR. | MARCH 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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mp3 sample: Daniell and McCombs

"F# Song (edit)"

An adage of rock music says it takes merely three guitar chords to start a band and write songs.

With a little more than that, and some equipment, electric guitarists David Daniell and Douglas McCombs say they can create an entire landscape of improvised sound.

They will bring their textured guitar sounds to Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., at 9 p.m. today. Admission is $7.

The two began performing together in 2006 as part of composer Rhys Chatham’s Die Donnergütter (The Thundergods) band. From there, they found connections in their music and tastes and decided to play together when Daniell moved from New York to Chicago, where McCombs lived.

“Right around the time he moved to Chicago, both of us had been offered some solo gigs,” McCombs said. “So we decided to do them together.”

The two, who each play in numerous other bands and projects, gravitated toward improvisation. Daniell said they found common ground in the work he did with San Augustin and what McCombs did with his band Brokeback. McCombs, who hadn’t really played much improvisation before teaming with Daniell, said the music they make has helped him grow as a guitarist.

“It’s a weird feeling. Sometimes it’s a little scary,” he said. “On a certain level, I feel comfortable doing it, but there’s enough of a challenge to keep it together [and] a challenge there that makes me feel like I’m progressing every time I do it.”

Daniell and McCombs took their influence not so much from rock bands as from composers and other artists. Daniell cited Morton Feldman as an inspiration for the minimalist sounds they create.

“My interest in music goes way beyond guitar-based music,” he said. “A lot of what we’re doing is derived from electronic and orchestral music. We’re not a string quartet, but we can approach some of the same ideas.”

Because of that, both said, their guitars tend not to sound like guitars: With the aid of a few pedals, they create what Daniell called “evolving soundscapes.” This maximizes the capabilities of the instrument, creating many different sounds and mimicking others.

“The guitar is a really versatile instrument,” Daniell said. “It’s vibrating strings. What you do with that is pretty open.”

Another part of the openness of their music is their free-flowing style. For Sycamore, Daniell and McCombs’ first release, they improvised parts for more than seven hours in a few days and recorded the results in two lofts in Chicago. From there, they listened to what they created, taking bits and pieces to form them into songs.

When they perform live — sometimes with a drummer— sometimes without , they use those songs or general arcs as a starting point and then go off into spontaneous territory. The result, even without drums and vocals, is a wall of sound that can take on the aspects of many instruments.

“It’s usually really gradual, one way or the other,” McCombs said. “Sometimes, we’ll try to start with something a little intense and have it trail off into something else [or vice versa]. Even though we’re working in a slightly limited range of what we do, it tends to be different every time, anyway.”

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