Review: Ex-Easter Island Head – Mallet Guitars One

Recorded in the roof space of a neo-classical church by two performers and three horizontal electric guitars on stands, Mallet Guitars One is a record that explores the interaction of the instruments and the resulting resonance and overtones – rhythm is used as a basis on which to form a dancing, dynamic blanket of suspended chords, shifting quickly as each mallet strike randomly selects a new note to emphasize.

There’s a gorgeous moment in the second track when the relentless repetition tricks my mind into splicing the sound of the mallet guitars into two separate entities – the atonal attack of each hit and the ceaseless drone of string excitation – which leaves the warm guitar reverberations to shift shape and ring out, seemingly on their own accord. Impressively, Ex-Easter Island Head manage to push the process of “mallets on guitars” to the back of your head during moments like these, to the point at which the music feels as though it could have been created by a different method entirely. This clearly isn’t a cheap and impulsive demonstration of a stumbled-upon gimmick. Mallet Guitars One assertively lays down a basis for further exploration (a Mallet Guitars Two at the very least).

However, much of the rhythmic interaction elsewhere feels too easy. There’s potential here for the players to create something challenging – to really disorientate the listener and dare them to keep up – rather than settle for the simple and wholly digestible rhythms present throughout movements one and three. Personally I found the record to be at its least interesting when I was most strongly reminded of the creation process, at which points it is impossible to forget that the resonant tones and open-string harmonies carry a strong resemblance to placing a guitar down heavy-handedly (albeit fronted by a xylophonic plonk). And whilst there’s something slightly charming about rousing a sense of musicality out of a sound so commonly deemed to be “unwanted”, Mallet Guitars One truly captivates when it combines tone and rhythm to adopt a much more unusual and abstract entity. I’m looking forward to hearing more.