I hesitate mentioning Ian Bouras’ physiological challenges because you can appreciate the story of his art without ever mentioning it. Bouras lives with a progressive and rare neurological condition called Ataxia He achieved a degree of renown after Billboard Magazine rated Bouras among the best songwriters of 2004 and 2005 thanks to his work with rock-reggae band AñaVañA and later earned an audio engineering degree that has led to an abundance of freelance work for Bouras in that area. He has logged multiple television appearance, toured often, and appears yearly at The Abilities Expo in an effort to illustrate to people that no challenge can or should restrict you from following your love. He primarily performs as a solo artist, but likewise appears in an improvisational duo Book of Clouds with collaborator Federico Balducci. A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space is his first live looping DVD and the unique packaging of this release is indicative of the ambition Bouras brings to his work.
There’s an internal coherence to this work I admire. By internal coherence I mean that A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space has visual and musical consistency alike – the camera angles and shots are confined to a narrow but never predictable range, setting ends the piece as it begins, and Bouras’ musical motifs are part of a larger composition where the sum is greater than its individual parts. Bouras approaches his material in much the same way a painter might – through accumulation of aural detail. Part One of six is eleven and a half minutes long and lays the groundwork for everything that follows. Bouras does an exemplary job of layering quality melodies with the larger context of the track and using time-tested guitar accessories – a glass slide – in unexpected settings.
Part 2 has a different visual setting than the first part and, perhaps, it reflects the musical shift taking place as well. In comparison to Part 1, Part 2 doesn’t utilize melody as much and opts, instead, to focus more on atmospheric touches. Once again, however, it is never overwrought. There’s a near ambient feel to the way Bouras uses guitar during the first half of this composition, but his love of melody rises to the surface during the song’s second half. Melody gives way to aural experimentation in Part 3 of A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space. His finger-picking technique has such a soft, yet decisive, touch – it sounds like he sculpts melodies rather than playing them, but his guitar work never fails to possess a warm sound throughout the entirety of the work.
He opens Part 4 making extensive use of the glass slide heard earlier and it becomes the initial defining element of the song’s sound. Bouras, naturally, builds on that initial loop with his distinctive ornamental and melodic touches. There is a slightly faster pace pushing Part 4 along than we hear elsewhere, but the same languid spirit defining the work as a whole is in full evidence with this performance. Part 6 concludes the release in much the same way it began. We return to the same visual setting and Bouras redoubles his melody first approach while still incorporating signature atmospherics and sounds only available throughout his use of looping guitar tracks.
Ian Bouras’ A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space is an important musical work presented in an idiosyncratic fashion and evidence a higher sensibility at work than you’ll find in 4/4 guitar rock bands or other pop acts. He’s aiming for something larger and many listeners will be happy to follow along.
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