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Rigorous sound experimentalist Alan Licht delivers a sincere homage to tuneful acoustic guitar music

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Over his lengthy career guitarist Alan Licht has covered lots of disparate terrain, whether playing naif indie rock in Love Child or creating works of conceptual sound art as he did on his 2003 album A New York Minute (XI). He’s an inveterate explorer with a deep historical sensibility, and he also writes about music with impressive clarity and unfussy analysis, but he’s never allowed his knowledge and respect for the past to confine his own work. In the last couple of years he’s released records in wildly divergent contexts. Last year’s Skip to the Solo (Public Eyesore) is a collaboration with fellow guitarist Henry Kaiser that’s full of rock frameworks for endless jamming—on nearly every song one of them solos from the opening bar, and often a track jumps to the next as if someone lifted a turntable needle to skip past all the singing and intros. That record’s high-definition clarity starkly contrasts with the improvisational landscapes he creates with Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama on last year’s Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow (Editions Mego), which features two extended, heavily atmospheric works marked by seething feedback and churning texture. The first, made with additional guitarist Oren Ambarchi, sounds as though individual instruments are dissolving within a rich, communal sound stew, while on the second, with cornetist Rob Mazurek, separate lines glisten and wriggle. For this rare local appearance, though, Licht will play music from his first solo acoustic album, 2015’s Currents (VDSQ), which defiantly eschews fingerstyle playing in favor of unabashedly sweet melodic instrumentals that meld propulsive strumming with piquant arpeggios—the tender, melodic pieces feel decidedly like songs rather than mere vehicles for polyphonic techniques.   v

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