“IMP (Live at Utica Brews)” by Guitarist Ian C. Bouras

Both crushing and at times so fragile they could disappear into the silence as seamlessly as they come ripping through it, there’s no question that the strings are one of the most important elements of “IMP (Live at Utica Brews),” the new 47-minute performance from experimentalist Ian C. Bouras. The guitar in this live session is responsible for delivering an ominous sense of passion around every twist and turn we encounter, and whether prepared to do so or not, it bears the weight of a profound emotionality surprisingly well. This isn’t your standard live record, nor does it have a predictable framework it follows. Bouras’ music is in a league of its own, and in this instance, it’s been tailored to the needs of a hungry ambient audience. 

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The juxtaposition of controlled noise and string-born melodies in “IMP” is bold and incredibly emotional in tone, and I would say it’s just as important to recognize as any of the surface-level cosmetics when trying to understand the unspoken narrative here. Because there is no hook, no lyricism and no ability for us to pick up on anything too on the nose in this track, we aren’t given any of the usual commercial outs with regard to appreciating the scope of Bouras’ artistic storytelling. Through textures produced directly by the swell of his instrumentation, we have a picture window into the soul of a performer as it seeks expression in real time (and that alone isn’t something you can typically find when browsing record store shelves). 

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There’s definitely a strong improvisational feel to this recording, but in the best way possible. There aren’t any unfinished sentences in the aural construct of the melody as we get into the first fifteen minutes of the show, but instead what feels like a provocative series of non-linguistic questions posed by the vibration of the strings. Bouras shows off a lot of self-control behind the guitar, and while there are moments in which the production quality doesn’t allow for us to feel the complete brawniness of the music (for better or worse), there’s scarcely an instance where we aren’t hearing what sounds like a genuine, unfiltered live performance as it originally unfolded. This is a very disciplined artist, and he’s proving that there’s nothing he wants to hide from the listeners here. 

A fantastic piece that alludes to a tradition of records that included The Narcotic StoryFascist Mind Programming and The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull, I would absolutely regard “IMP (Live at Utica Brews” a must-listen for experimental music fans around the globe this August. Ian C. Bouras has been on quite the odyssey as a professional artist in the last decade-plus, and although he isn’t necessarily telling us anything we didn’t already know about his work here, I don’t think this release was about anything other than solidifying a reputation he established a number of years ago. I’m impressed with his continuous growth, and I think most of his longtime followers are going to feel the same. 

Michael Rand

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