The live looping DVD and song collection A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space from noted songwriter and guitarist Ian Bouras is his most ambitious effort yet. Bouras’ penchant for “looping” his guitar work is more than an affectation; it has developed into Bouras’ sonic signature and highlights the nuanced texture and idiosyncratic mood of his art. It has an individual quality absent any reference point with other artists – Bouras traffics in recognizable genres and sounds, but he casts them in his own unique light. The new release follows a spartan filming template. Viewers see nothing but Bouras, his instrument, and a variety of camera angles, but there’s no needless self indulgence or visual frills weighing down Bouras’ presentation.

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The visual set up is simple. Boasting nothing more than a small Fender amplifier with a toy stuffed animal in front of it for good measure, a pedal board and another standalone pedal, and wind chimes dangling from the headstock of his guitar, Bouras plays for an audience of one, the viewer, in Part One of the release. The eleven and a half minute opening piece is evocative and understated like Bouras’ previous forays into guitar looping. There is a deft balance struck here between the melancholic and near-ethereal, but Bouras works other sounds into the guitar playing late in the piece when he uses a glass slide, typically a blues music staple, to widen the sonic reach of this performance.

Part Two finds him in a different setting than before. It is a more traditional stage setting than we viewed with the first part, but the accoutrements are the same as before. Part 2 is much more atmospheric and less melodic than the first part, but no less compelling. Bouras once again makes use of the glass slide making an appearance in Part 1. His fingerpicking style on guitar allows him to modulate his touch on the strings much more so than if he used a pick instead and even a first time listener to Bouras’ music can tell he has labored mightily to perfect this style. The track does move in a more melodic direction as Part 2 progresses. It may not be easy for some to tell, it doesn’t leap out at you thanks to the subdued nature of his material, but Bouras does an excellent job orchestrating these performances in a dynamic way. There are peaks and valleys throughout the performance.

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Part 5 of A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space finds Bouras eliciting percussion sounds from his guitar, running his fingernails along the string, and even a smattering of tapping to create the foundation for the performance. The conclusion, Part 6, brings viewers back to where we began in terms of setting as an assortment of wooden chairs with numbers written on their backs are positioned behind Bouras while he plays. The final part is the briefest composition included with this release and keeps much of the same spirit we’ve heard from the earlier performances, but there is a sense of “leave taking” with this final track, though never pronounced in an overt fashion. It ends A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space on a very satisfying note.

Michael Rand

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