AZONIC – Prospect Of The Deep Volume One

Improvisational Long Tone Guitar & Orchestral Percussion
Andy Hawkins – Guitars
Tim Wyskida – Timpani, Concert Bass Drum, Gong
Brooklyn, NY
Record label
Indivisible Records

While Andy Hawkins, guitarist and founder of the pioneering instrumental trio Blind Idiot God (BIG), was studying film composition at Berklee College of Music back in 1985, he recorded an audition tape for the Berklee avant garde ensemble. That tape featured solo, high volume improvisations on a vibrato equipped electric guitar, pushing the extreme pitch range of the instrument. The vibrato is normally used for subtle effects in conventional tonal music. And while guitar pioneers such as Jimi Hendrix and Terry Kath pushed the range of the vibrato in a band context, there had not been an entire musical project based on exploring the possibilities of a vibrato equipped electric guitar.

After dropping out of Berklee in 1986 and moving to New York City to begin recording the first Blind Idiot God full-length for SST Records, Hawkins began spending more time in front of his guitar amp which had been modified for increased volume and fidelity. This allowed for greater clarity and impact while pushing the extremes of the pitch range with the vibrato. The first properly recorded version of this new sound was the solo guitar ending of “Drowning” as featured on the second BIG LP Undertow (1989). Recorded in BC Studios’ famous high ceiling, wood and brick drum room, this extended range feedback solo demonstrated the microtonal harmonic possibilities of a vibrato equipped guitar in concert with high gain, high fidelity amplification.

After the release of Undertow, the BIG rehearsal space was robbed and all the band’s amps and guitars were stolen. This was a huge blow to the group both in terms of finances, and the momentum they had gained after releasing two LPs, and touring the US and Europe. However, the band eventually managed to retool with bigger and better equipment to record 1992’s Cyclotron, this time featuring an entire track of solo vibrato guitar improvisation, “Cloud Cover.”

During the production of Cyclotron, Bill Laswell offered to produce an entire album of Hawkins’ solo high volume feedback guitar. The Azonic track “Halo” was recorded and mixed at Laswell’s Greenpoint studio in the Fall of 1993 and released July 1, 1994 on Laswell’s Strata imprint. Laswell’s mix translation included processed ambient tracks weaved through the four guitar improvisations played on seven string tremolo and 6/12 double neck guitars. Following “Halo” Sub Rosa released “Skinner’s Black Laboratories” on August 29th 1995, as a split CD with two tracks each from Andy Hawkins/Azonic and Justin Broderick.

In 1996, Blind Idiot God went on hiatus after drummer Ted Epstein left the band. Hawkins relocated to Los Angeles in search of a new drummer and lower overhead. But unable to find a drummer and after experiencing a bad motorcycle accident, Hawkins returned to New York City to recuperate and regroup. After a long search, a rehearsal space which could accommodate BIG volumes was found, and Hawkins was able to recruit drummer Tim Wyskida to join BIG. The new space also allowed Hawkins to begin work on new ideas for another Azonic LP.

Getting BIG back in shape was the priority and the journey back was arduous. However, during rehearsals with BIG, and his growing respect for Wyskida’s more improvisational approach, Hawkins began to imagine new possibilities for the next Azonic LP, but this time with another instrument. Once Hawkins acquired two timpani and one concert bass drum for another project, the idea crystallized and Wyskida committed to an improvisational duo of guitar and orchestral percussion, including gong. The results were spectacular and preparation for recording began.

With Laswell again committed to mix translation, BC Studio was selected for its huge tracking rooms, which were ideal for the high volume, long tone qualities of the music. It was agreed that two full volumes of music would be recorded. This resulted in seven epic pieces. Laswell’s mix translations added bowed bass and triggered processing, which lent an even more dynamic layering to the music than even the previous Azonic releases had achieved. The music is highly evocative, rich in tone, focused wide and with an immense scale, oceanic. Prospect Of The Deep Volume One includes two side-length pieces, “Oblivion Of The Deep” and “The Argonaut’s Reckoning” on the vinyl LP, and a third bonus piece, “Voices Of The Drowned” on the CD format.