Various artist compilations comes in many forms and sizes, but this 2014 compilation from US label Silber Records is a rather unique one I think, at least when seen in the greater totality of this package. It’s called “QRD – The Guitarists”, is a digital only production, and clocks in at an easy 4 hours playing time or thereabouts. None of which marks this is a production outside of ordinary bounds mind you, as it is the content of this package rather than the length and format that is the main talking matters here. I should probably add that those with an interest in ordinary guitar virtuoso performers in various styles will not have an interest in this compilation at all. There are no blues masters to be found here, nor any unheralded masters of jazz or jazzrock. As for those with an affection for metal and shredding, there’s just a token example of this here, and in the greater context this is more an incidental case than anything else. What this production is all about, are the more or less unheralded guitar players exploring the outermost edges of music, the ones exploring the many different borderlands between music and mere sound.
This production is about more than the mere music though. QRD is a fanzine that have been around for some 20 odd years at this point, for most of the time co-existing with creator Brian John Mitchell’s record label Silber Records, based out of North Carolina in the United States. A common feature of that fanzine have been interviews with musicians, where a set questionnaire have been developed where the musicians approached have been asked numerous detailed questions about gear, tech, technique, habits, likes and dislikes, dreams and visions concerning their craft and their instruments. Fascinating reads for those with a keen interest in the guitar, presumably, and perhaps most of all for fellow musicians in general and guitarists in particular. 20 years or so of those detailed interviews is a part of this package, provided as an electronic book counting up to an impressive 2388 pages long PDF document. If you love to read about guitarists and their thoughts and opinion on their instrument, their craft and related topics this is a book that most likely should occupy you for an hour or two. More than 100 musicians have been covered, although I would guess that the greater majority of them are unknown outside of the mostly niche environments they populate.
The second part of this production is the music. 55 of the guitarists, including Mitchell himself, have chosen to contribute music to this project. The greater majority of the material operate within the quadrant of drones, post rock, ambient and noise rock, many of them combining two or more of these elements. In addition there are contributions that may, more or less broadly, be placed inside the context of folk, psychedelic music and jazz, and some singular excursions that arguably may be best described as residing within the classical and metal universe respectively. What all of them have in common is that they are all instrumental only.
These contributions are diverse in form as well. Some come across as mere technical showcases, others as single instrument details presented outside of a full compositional context, the standalone guitar based texture from a full band composition. Most of them are fully developed creations though, ranging from single instrument creations to more elaborate affairs with sophisticated, multiple layered arrangements and well developed theme developments. The sheer range of styles and approaches will make this album something of a roller-coaster ride for those who, like me, are mere listeners, and that much of the material is rather challenging as well does make this a rather taxing experience. I kind of guess that the number of people able to listen intently through the full four hours here in one sitting is limited.
All in all this is an impressive production, the combination of text and music makes this package a virtual behemoth, literally speaking when considering publishing format. As I am but a mere listener my conclusion is based solely on the musical merits I got from the musical contributions, which merits specifying I suspect. How large the potential audience for such a production will be is something that I find much more difficult to estimate. Those with a keen interest in guitarists with a style and approach often well outside of the common norms and genres should probably be made aware of this production I guess, and I would suspect that guitarists who treasure fellow musicians with such an approach is another possible audience too.
My rating: 71/100