Robert Poss rings bells just like he's playing guitar. The chimes ring out during the opening piece on Settings, but you only have to wait for the second track for those bells to run into thrumming strings. His abiding love for electric guitar is no casual dalliance or detached Platonic infatuation; it's an erotic commitment, an obsessive plunge into the instrument's metallic churn and enveloping drone. That's been the way at least since Poss formed Band Of Susans with Susan Stenger in 1986, when he was also performing with Rhys Chatham. That phase reverberates through the motoric churn of "With Music No. 2", a composition commissioned by choreographer Sally Gross. Pieces written for the dance companies of Alexandra Beller and Gerald Casel also feature here along with music for specific occasions, as the subtitle indicates. His use of percussion, piano and electronics, and the broadly Ambient feel of tracks such as "Inverness" or "Then I Realized," might suggest that Poss has changed as he has developed, but the six-‐stringed and amplified core of his musical imagination remains the same whatever the actual sound source. He's certainly extending into other areas here -‐ the hobbling honky-‐tonk of "Border Piano Walk," the synthetic orchestral pomp of "Tourniquet Revisited" -‐ but the concluding live solo, "Robert Palmer Tribute Coda," leaves no doubt at all that at heart Poss is still a guy in love with a guitar. Go Robert Go.
Wire, December 2010
Robert Poss is responsible for a record that is mesmerizing and stunning in scope. This richly textured release features pieces commissioned for choreographers Alexandra Beller, Gerald Casel, and Sally Gross. This collection is a beautiful manipulation of sound, a droning amalgamation of artistically challenging brilliance. Leaving his guitar and wall of distortion at home, Poss generates songs of quiet, genteel serenity, almost to the point of not moving. Ethereal yet still piercing, Settings is a journey of enchanting beauty which hovers precariously on the verge of chaos. The opening bells of “Other Stories Interlude” (which return on “The Pleasure of Stillness”) and the engrossing “Feed Forward” are two of the works created for Beller, and two of my favorites. Longer efforts, particularly “Border Crossing March”, crafted for Casel, and the complex “Stare Decisis” are absorbing experiments of tone and structure. There is still room for remarkable warmth and beauty as exemplified by the lush strings on the majestic “Tourniquet Revisited”. The sophistication of Settings is staggering, for the record transcends soundscapes and enters rarified air usually reserved for only the most exemplary classical works. While each song is elegantly performed with a wholly unique personality, there is cohesion throughout the record as the fourteen tracks possess an intimacy and immediacy that defines the larger work. It is soulful and powerful in its scope and subtle force. Poss is a genius at creating atmospheres that are intimate yet expansive, daunting yet personal. Only on the concluding “Robert Palmer Tribute Coda” does Poss’ more traditional side emerge, as the song is a scathing eighty-five seconds of guitar squall and feedback. This is a triumph.
Poss’ performance was a handsome demonstration of the relativity of the term ‘improvisation.’ What might have initially seemed like random wailing quickly became an event that bore witness to the presence of a deep knowledge and control of the instrument....The result was a massive heaping of electronic sound, a synthetic sonic bundle that you could cut with a knife.
De Groene Amsterdammer
[I]t is great, a reminder of what's still fascinating about the electric guitar. If you need a clear, clean refreshing blast of the basics, distortion is definitely truth.
At the same time as Poss' avant-garde experiments transform the guitar and open up new possibilities for the instrument, he doesn't completely forsake some of its more traditional sounds.
This is highly innovative and highly melodic music for the experimental set. This is art, this is noise, this is feedback, this is blowing apart conventions, this is damn good songwriting. The guitar love affair continues and things just seem to be heating up.
Lost at Sea
Whether riding resonating crests or layering light sounds of strums and hums, Robert Poss' emotive directions are equally moving and exciting.
…Guitar genius, drone meister and ex-Band Of Susans member…Robert Poss is the master of treated and manipulated guitars along with distorted drum machines and synths.
Anyone under the impression that Sonic Youth were/are/could very well be the kings of six string overkill never crossed paths with Band Of Susans. What a glorious din of guitars, loops, wires and pedals that was….Chief Susan, real name Robert Poss, plugs back in to rekindle that old amp magic.
…[A]n ADD-friendly hodgepodge of compelling fabrics, raw feedback, and driving noise….
An eccentric underground guitar hero.
Select any of the names from below to read the complete interview.
13 QUESTIONS FROM PREPARED GUITAR (January, 2015)
QRD (July, 2010)
TAPE OP (Summer, 1998)