Review: Osman Arabi – Destroying Symmetry

Osman Arabi - Destroying SymmetryTo read about Arabi’s initial guitar dilemma is to consider whether I, too, am a mere puppet for my own listening habits. Is my guitar playing a pure extension of my own creative will, or an amalgamative reflection of the guitar playing of others? Arguably, the consideration becomes even more worrying during the act of improvisation: perhaps this supposed current of pure impulse is merely a library of the learned and the idolised; a playbook from which I throw forth imitations of the listening material I find stimulating.

Arabi has found a way of shattering this samsaric feedback loop based on Austin Osman Spare’s sigil work, drilling a hole through which the subconscious will can pass into the air uninhibited. The results are documented here as a solitary take, with just a delicate reverb residing between his strings and my own ears. Sometimes it sounds like Arabi has rearranged the positions of his own fingers, writhing across the fretboard in a succession of wretched splays, twitching in sudden zags of transformation. At others, his plucking hand shivers and stops suddenly, causing alternations between sighing open strings and scrunched up harmonies of blues and stifled vibration – a babble of choke and chicaning release.

This may have felt stiff and discordant in another context, like a body forcing back against its own muscle mechanisms, manoeuvring between ideas with the incoherence of a dying slide projector. Yet somehow (and in a way that perhaps needs to be physically heard to be entirely understood), each gesture is the curve and ripple of a solitary thread; a direct translation of Arabi’s own electricity in the now, without the disruptive skew of unwanted outside influence. It feels thoroughly real-time. Now Arabi has discovered a channel for genuine self-impulse, he can now play in the knowledge that he will never repeat himself – just as all transient beings develop and reshape in dialogue with time and environment, his guitar playing can adapt accordingly.