One of my favorite guitarists is Vini Reilly. Under the moniker the Durutti Column, he has released a vast amount of deeply emotional and often beautiful music. The music he makes is hard to describe, because any description makes it seem less unique and engaging then it truly is. He switches between insturmentals with songs that feature sampled voices, female singers, and his own soft whisper of a voice. The music is mostly slow, hypnotic, and trancelike. It can often be more akin to listening to classical music than pop music, although there are pop hooks in some of it. It is almost always beautiful and calming, even if there is often also an aspect of melancholia to it. It has much in common with some of Brian Eno’s work, but Reilly’s guitar almost always brings an unmistakable sound to the proceedings. Unlike a lot of mellow or ambient music, that may be great at creating a mood, only to dissipate when it comes from the background to the foreground, Reilly’s work holds up under closer inspection.
Reilly is a a guitar hero whose technical abilities are always used towards the aim of emotion first. It is extremely melodic and textural. When he plays electric he often has a echo like sound that bounces around the aural spectrum. Unlike many that drench their guitar in reverb and delay, Reilly can really play. His use of effects helps create his signature sound and always adds to the feeling of what he is playing.
Reilly was a fixture in the Manchester post punk scene. Often undervalued, and being prone to depression, Reilly has had many hurdles to overcome. However, he has always turned his struggles into beautiful art.
The newest Durutti Column album, Chronicle, is a worthy addition to his cannon. If you buy it digitally you get 25 songs for the price of one record. This album would serve as a great introduction to his music. As a whole it is as strong as almost anything he has done, even if there no single piece that rises to the heights of some of his most well know pieces like the song Otis.
The original Chronicle was meant to be a piece that served as a retrospective to his life. Between the initial premier of some of the music and the final release, Reilly suffered a series of strokes and the end of a long term relationship. Reilly, someone that always seems to preserver despite being deemed fragile by many, reworked the material and recorded new pieces after these hardships. He even had to learn to play guitar all over, despite being told by doctors that he might never play again.
Other than the deeply emotional qualities of the work, one would never know that this album almost didn’t come to be in its current form. It ranks among his best work. There are people that write songs and there are people that just are music. Reilly is of the latter description. Every time he plays you feel as if his soul is laid bare. This is exquisitely beautiful stuff. Whether you get this album or something else by him, his work deserves a place in every music lover’s collection.
Check out the song Synergetic on YouTube for an idea of how beautiful this music can be. I am unfortunately on the road and cannot embed videos until I am home.