At the age of 10, Arkansas blues musician CeDell Davis began suffering from polio. The disease struck him so severely it rendered his hands all but useless. He loved making music so in order to keep playing he flipped his guitar, restrung it and began fingering notes on the neck with a butter knife. The result was an eerie metallic drone that came to characterize Davis' playing. Whether imposed or crafted, practical conditions have a profound impact on the power of a sound.
With his neck bent and legs crossed as Bill Orcutt plays, his movements embody the manic collection of tones and scratches rising up out of his guitar. The experimental noise idol pounds away at a tuned down four string acoustic Kay that's "been broken and put back together so many times" it's evolved to possess a distinctly brittle sound that haunts his songs. "One night I came back from the shop and the guy was just like 'Never tune this up to concert pitch or it'll snap,'" Orcutt says.
"For me making music is a gestural thing, I have to be able to move my hands around and move my body around, without that I don't feel like I'm actually doing anything." It's a manifesto that continues to pervade Orcutt's work since forming the iconic Miami-based noise group Harry Pussy with partner Adris Hoyos in 1992. Four years later, he began publishing solo material starting with a six-track album, Solo CD. While this maintained the violent immediacy and friction found in his earlier projects, it also exposed his deep roots of dirty southern blues and folk music. Songs pick up on a history laid out by Robert Pete Williams and Cecil Barfield, performers whose sounds rely on a plodding and heaviness that American blues continues to deliver.
Orcutt will be supplying 16 minutes of his relentlessly primitive sound just in time for OBEY on an upcoming live cassette entitled, Why Does Everybody Love Free Music But Nobody Loves Free People? released on Palilalia Records. "It's a lot of screaming at the audience, at one point the cops come...there's a lot more vocalization than any of the records I put out so far."
Bill Orcutt, Jerry Granelli, Torso, Saturday June 2, 1313 Hollis St, 7:30pm, $12