Charlie Ulyatt - Solo Electric Guitarist Nottingham



No doubt numerous albums inspired by Leonard Cohen will emerge in the wake of the beloved troubadour's passing, but probably none will be quite like the one by Nottingham, UK-based guitarist Charlie Ulyatt, who, saddened by the passing of the great Montreal poet, devised a rather unusual and refreshingly original way of honouring his memory. Rather than do covers of "Bird On a Wire," "Suzanne," or "Hallelujah," Ulyatt read some of Cohen's poems one damp Saturday afternoon and extracted phrases from them to use as inspiration for solo electric guitar improvisations. The result makes for a natural complement to Ulyatt's 2016 release, Dead Birds, given that it too presents a collection of solo electric guitar pieces (even if the debut also features a spoken word turn by the guitarist on its title track).

Each of the eleven settings on Do Not Forget Old Friends was wholly improvised and documents the mood at the moment of recording. Conducting himself like a minimalist painter, Ulyatt exploits the instrument's natural sustain to its fullest advantage and similarly uses space to maximize the resonance of his playing. Patterns unfold languorously, the guitarist content to let extended pauses appear between the notes, and the general vibe is one of unhurried and thoughtful exploration. In tracks such as "The World's Huge Wound" and "Somebody's Innocent Night," pitches are held so long, the material begins to take on the character of a drone, whereas the otherwise delicately rendered "Her Words Were Few And Small" catches the ear when slide accents plummet down the fretboard.

Though the pieces are purely instrumental in design, they do at times convincingly evoke the spirit of Cohen's writing and sensibility, never more so than during the quietly dusky dirges "Ghostly Shapes in the Depths" and "Cemetery of Love"; further to that, the meditative character of Ulyatt's pieces aligns naturally with Cohen's involvement with Zen Buddhism (according to a 1996 article in the Montreal Mirror, the poet, who had practiced Zen for years, was officially ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk on August 9, 1996 at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in California). Ulyatt's axe of choice (at least here) is electric, but never is it used to generate a firestorm; instead, the guitar's a gentle creature intent on telling a story in clear, crystalline lines as opposed to unleashing a torrent of high-decibel intensity. Improvisations can sometimes feel directionless, but that's not the case here.


from 'Bandcamp purchaser'

Evocative release which brings back memories of so many soundscapes. 19 minutes will soon drift past, but your ears will continue to hear those haunting tones for a long while after.Favorite track: This Is How It Starts.

From Norman Records

Charlie Ulyatt's 'Dead Birds' arrived at the 'Towers back in the early days of summer and I for one was captivated by his shimmering solo meanderings. The guitar in Ulyatt's hands is transformed into a machine which suspends time as notes linger and hang in the air, evoking dry and dusty landscapes, barren mountains or at least the top of a crag in Lancashire. This EP was recorded live at Nottingham's Rough Trade and features heartbreaking versions of 'In The End' and 'Crow Attacks Buzzard', as well as three brand new songs.

Of the new tunes, 'This Is How It Starts' actually starts the CD; well I never. It's a slow burner; it's not difficult to picture a campfire smouldering amongst rocky outcrops if you close your eyes. 'In Brighton' has nothing to do with that Brighton; there's an eeriness to the briefly sustained discordance of Ulyatt's playing, which dissipates into something altogether more serene. An enjoyable 20 minutes; short but not too sweet. Like my brother, in fact.


From (link)

Handwritten review in Wasistdas - click for larger version

From We Need No Swords (link)

These eight ruminative pieces from Nottingham guitarist Charlie Ulyatt demonstrate a rare cohesion and assurance, their slow progression opening up wide, meditative spaces that are both liberating and tinged with a sense of foreboding. Ulyatt's sound - swathed in reverb with a hint of tremelo that leaves his picked notes shimmering in the air in a seemingly perpetual decay - recalls the cosmic guitar ragas of Dean McPhee. But whereas McPhee's playing is rigorously idiom free, Ulyatt seems happier to let folkish intervals and the occasional post-rock inflected gesture creep into what he’s doing. There's nowt bad about letting your influences shine through, of course, and these stylistic pointers bring light and shade to Ulyatt's compositions, ranging from a Renbourn-style courtliness through to a gloomy near-goth glower.

If that welter of name-dropping makes Dead Birds sound like some postmodernist stew stylistic references, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The ghosts of other performers may tip toe around in the background but for the most part Ulyatt is perfectly in control here, paring everything back to a lyrical minimalism that rarely puts a plectrum wrong. On pieces like In the End, the notes don’t exactly tumble from Ulyatt’s instrument – instead he seems focused on playing as few notes as is humanly possible to convey his message, resulting in skeletal, folky forms that gleam like ancient bones, long picked clean by vultures, their bleached whiteness enigmatic markers in a parched landscape.

True, Dead Birds might sound a tad dour at times – the seven minutes of Like Dust When It Rains have a gloriously druidic aridity that conjure up the image of John Fahey working his way through Mogwai's back catalogue, for example. Overall, however, the unhurried pace and glistening melodic dewdrops of Dead Birds make for a meditative and satisfying listen, the kind of thing you’d reach for during a long autumn afternoon with a pot of tea and a smoke. It's hazy enough to loosen your grip on quotidian worries without opening up any troublesome wormholes in time and space. And even if the cover art's a bit mournful – looks like Ulyatt’s pet moggie has gone hunting again – it would be difficult not to feel at the least moderately chilled out after half an hour or so in Dead Birds’ company.

From (link)

Charlie Ulyatt is the very definition of an independent artist. Thanks (in no small part) to the exponential trajectory of technology, it has never been easier for someone to write, perform, record, produce, and distribute an album free of any concession to someone else's perspective, vision or bottom-line; something that Ulyatt himself has just accomplished. The Nottingham, UK based sonic-minimalist recently self-released Dead Birds, a defiantly introverted rumination of a record that he self-describes as the culmination of many years spent living in the wild and sparse flatlands of Lincolnshire.

Eschewing much of what you would typically associate with a solo instrumental/ambient release (electronics, loops, etc..), Dead Birds is an exercise in understated brevity; eight tracks of sparse, solo guitar that slowly unravel and reveal their themselves amid a backdrop of droning vamps and sparse chords. And yet, despite the minimalistic execution and admirably unprocessed guitar tone and production, the songs themselves are impressively cinematic in scope.

The album opens with the shimmering, almost chime-like guitar line of “Stealing Shelter”, a song that serves as an overture of sorts for what is to come. “Breathing Space” and “In the End” further explore this template, deliberately moving from one motif to another, seamlessly blending together.

The musical centerpiece of the album is the seven-minute-plus “Like Dust When it Rains”, a sparsely mournful epic that perfectly demonstrates Ulyatt’s commanding restraint. The backwards guitar-laden “Hanging Of the Light at Dawn” and the overdriven ambiance of the album closer “Losing Myself” confidently book-end an album that is cleverly tethered at all times to a persistently subtle melancholy.

While there is something to be said for the universal impact of sincere simplicity, ‘less is more’ is one of the more difficult and elusive musical axioms to actually implement. Rife with hard to quantify intangibles, when it comes to droning, ambient instrumental/electronic music, it’s a very fine line between genius and boring. To this point, Dead Birds is a resounding success; an absolute must listen for post-rock, prog-rock, ambient, instrumental and guitar fans alike.

From (link nr end of page)

Finally on cassette we have "Dead Birds" an istrumental guitar album influenced by the landscape of Lincolnshire, recorded in an old potato shed and mastered in the Outer Hebrides by its creator Charlie Ulyatt . Perhaps differing from other experimental solo guitar albums in that it uses electric rather than acoustic instruments, the album's focus is on atmosphere and texture rather than technical dexterity. Invoking the vast flatness of the landscapes that influenced it, "Stealing Shelter" is a minimalist piece that rolls like early morning mist, slow and almost drone, whilst "Breathing Space" manages to slow thing down even more, as if you have stopped your ramble to merely gaze at the landscape all around. Whilst mainly instrumental, the title track does include some spoken word regarding Icarus, all set to some harsh distorted guitar noise, something of a departure to what has gone before, although this brief moment is soon replaced by more dream like textures in the shape of "In The End". As the listener moves through the album it is easy to get completely lost in the sound with the long free flowing "Like Dust When It Rains" being an obvious highlight, the whole album brought to a close by the slow burning "Losing Myself" proving once again that atmosphere and texture are more important than technique, that an ear for emotion, to be able to paint a picture is far better than be able to play 100 notes a minute.

From (link)

At a time when it's never been easier for independent recordings to be produced, solo guitar albums are appearing, it seems, with ever greater regularity, and these four recent ones testify to the genre's current robust level of health. Of the four, it's Charlie Ulyatt's that's the outlier, simply because it's a collection of solo electric guitar pieces in contrast to the acoustic focus of the others. The cryptically titled Dead Birds is the first album release by the Nottingham, UK guitarist and was recorded, so we're told, “in an old potato warehouse and mastered in the wilderness of the Outer Hebrides.” There's much to recommend about the recording. Ulyatt's not out to dazzle the listener with technical virtuosity; instead, he uses the instrument to evoke the vast rolling flatlands of Lincolnshire. Not every space is filled, either; he allows room for the guitar's ample sustain to emerge between the melodic expressions (never better exemplified than during “Breathing Space”), and each setting takes on the character of a story with a dusty folk tale to tell. On a representative track such as the meditative drone “Like Dust When it Rains,” he admirably resists the urge to squeeze a solo into available spaces, implicitly demonstrating in doing so confidence in the impact the composition will have when presented in its unembellished smolder. There's also an appealing, slow-burn quality to “Hanging of the Light at Dawn,” and on this otherwise instrumental collection, the title piece mixes things up in featuring a spoken word turn by the guitarist, with a Greek poet's musings on Icarus punctuated by a raw e-bow flourish. At eight tracks and thirty-six minutes, Dead Birds presents a concise and flattering portrait that's no less appealing for being free of flab.

From Left Lion Magazine (link - 3rd review down)

Over eight short tracks, Charlie Ulyatt’s guitar meditates on the musician’s time spent in Lincolnshire, with Dead Birds invoking the county’s vast flatlands and wild scenery. The album is sparse, often just Ulyatt’s guitar shimmering as if caught by the breeze, but it’s all t he better for it. He could have easily overdone the guitar theatrics, but he’s kept it simple and raw; utilising tremolo, lush reverb, and plenty of space between the notes, making this an affective listen. It’s a record that echoes around your headspace and takes you to a calmer place, where the world moves at a slower pace. The mood gently shifts over the 34 minutes – Dead Birds features the words from a Greek poem and the final two tracks add some distorted vibrating guitar to the mix, but it never breaks its spell. With this album, Charlie Ulyatt has created an engaging and meditative listen. Paul Klotschkow

From Rotational Review (link)

full-bodied rich glowing chords and picked guitar notes, lush with organ-similar overtones hanging in the air over every move, with a nice trebled and angelic tone carving through the wanted-forest in front. the sound of brush in coating form, the wilds retrofitted with a sustain pedal from a piano-like sing, an amplifier naturalism blending in with the greens and blues and greys, leaving trails and poems at touched sitting/standing spots. the massive open and holding harmonics hallow the landscapes back to humanity with a desolate feel cured from awe and tuned to near-optimism.

everything outside is in a state of regeneration, terrain dries up and will get wet again, the brightness placed over the pensive playing acknowledges a cycle, a night journey for outer stars and an early wake-up for the winds to start again in a kinder way.

wanting to be a part of the imagery and the awakening of the wooded and greened lands, specific sun-hit or climbing hill, electrified six-strings in osmotic wherewithal, environmental exorcistic letting go, taking and leaving and honouring. not quite the sound of rain showers on tin, but close, a clean metallic wind chime ring, thickened by rounded speaker curve and sonic suspension. from speaker to the land, as if freed to co-mingle with distance and topographical height/highs.

can be tent drifting for night lay-down use, or brought along when collecting the well's water in earliest arrival. less overt desert as others try, there's a fullness and painterly wind to this that separates it out and flags it to a place, adding gentle autobiography.

From: Dying For Bad Music (link)

Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack is the first that comes to my mind when I read that an album consists solely of an electric guitar. That's when I usually skipped to another album. But the latest release of Nick Jonah Davis and C Joynes "Split Electric" and musicians like William Tyler or Steve Gunn they all helped to qualify my opinion.

Charlie Ulyatt from Nottingham in the UK debuts with an album of mostly undistorted, amplified solo electric guitar pieces similar to Dean McPhee's music. Not as sophisticated as a guitar player but similar in working with the characteristics of guitar amps, sustain and effects.

A few additional comments I've received either personally, or on social media

...I'd like to say though, i've listened to it soooooo many times already, it is such a great album, i hope you're happy with it because it is really special...

...having a listen over the weekend and really enjoyed it ...Lots of great spaces going on in the album you've made

Some very pretty stuff on here. Nice wide open spaces. Worth a listen and £3 of your hard-earned

listening now, so great! really excited to have on cassette as well

Just listened to it all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed it

Recording quality is great and it seems to hang together well as an album. has a strong sense of space and atmosphere so yeah good work!

It's (and I'm not saying this cos I know you) really bloody good. Really my kind of business, it's got depth, feels like repeated listens will be rewarded. Great sonics, lovely ideas. Sweet!

Charlie Ulyatt - Solo Electric Guitar Nottingham

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