Songs We Love: Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band, 'Harmonious Dance'
(Photo: Courtesy of the artist)
"I wanted some of the chords to just hang in the air, glimmering like stars," says guitarist/composer Chris Forsyth of "Harmonious Dance," a graceful instrumental from The Rarity of Experience, his latest outing with his Solar Motel Band. Though the album presents the song in a full-on, electric-band arrangement, its origin was actually as a solo acoustic, 12-string guitar composition, written in 2006-07 as part of the score for choreographer Miguel Gutierrez's piece, Everyone. "That part in the dance was a very elegant, restrained, and almost self-consciously 'beautiful' moment in an otherwise rather chaotic piece," Forsyth recalled for NPR Music. "I wanted the music to embody those qualities, that pensiveness."
As one of rock's most lyrical guitar improvisers — and one of the few able to make commanding long-form music in a predominantly instrumental format — Forsyth fully embraced the opportunity to flesh that beauty out further with the help of his bandmates. "Dance" unfurls itself gradually and elegantly, with Forsyth and Nick Millevoi's chiming guitars making their initial entrance much like the glimmering stars Forsyth initially envisioned. But by the middle of the almost-ten-minute-long composition, the themes become bigger and bolder, with both guitarists beginning to move restlessly around the main motifs, until everything but Steven Urgo's drums drops out. When the band does come back in, the track opens like a flower in full bloom. As Forsyth puts it, "The outro becomes open territory to just go to town." Without losing any of the tune's delicacy or melodic poignancy, Forsyth and Solar Motel turn a fairly linear piece of music into a semi-psychedelic fantasia, full of gently exploratory lines freely intertwining in a manner not a million miles from some of the jamming journeys of Comets on Fire or Grateful Dead.
In retrospect it's easy to understand why Forsyth decided to build "Harmonious Dance" from a solo statement into something that retains a balletic feel, but is also much grander. "I think the process and how you play a tune any time you get together with other players is what's most interesting," he says. "It's not about just going through the motions of a song and playing it over and over, like some Revolutionary War re-enactor. It's about going at it with everything in the moment (that's The Rarity of Experience)."
The Rarity of Experience is out March 4 on No Quarter Records.