Mariza Kapsabeli

The guitar is a versatile instrument to say the least. Its full potential as an orchestral instrument has never been fully realized.

Of course, there is the Barcelona Guitar Orchestra, which puts on wonderful performances of classical and Spanish music, arranged for a group of twenty-plus guitarists. The bass, harmony, and melody lines are divided amongst the players in a highly skillful manner. There’s also Pat Metheny who, on Electric Counterpoint, creates rich, melodic texture with only his electric guitar. Though, I find it interesting that it’s actually in the alternative rock scene, starting in the 80s with groups like Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr, that the idea of depending solely on guitars to create layers of sound took a life of its own. Economically, it makes a lot of sense. If you’re a Bob Mould or a J. Mascis and you feel inspired by sounds and techniques outside of the rock idiom in terms of arrangement and composition, you’re gonna want to find a way to apply this to your rock combo setup without blowing your budget on hiring orchestral musicians. Thus, you use guitar voicings, effects like chorus and overdrive, overdubbing in the studio, and bass players playing chords (as opposed to just root notes) to beef up your sound. When you consider the rich harmonics that acoustic and electric guitars are capable of, it is plausible to fill the entire sound spectrum without adding any auxiliary instruments. This was a novel approach to sound production back then and this technique went on to influence so many acts including XOAN.


Formed in 2017 in Athens, Greece, XOAN is a four-piece who’s set on bringing back the 90s post-punk alternative sound. Their new single must have come out of long listening sessions involving the songs of Dinosaur Jr, They Might be Giants, Alkaline Trio, and Matthew Good Band. “Subliminal Interactions between Underwater Species,” which is a title more suited for a 50s sci-fi film than a rock song, has some beautifully saturated guitar-octaves, very tight drum work, and melodic hooks that seem to take their cue from some of the poppier tunes on Zen Arcade. The two guitarists in the band riff off each other smoothly, while the vocalist has the huskiness of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Dicky Barrett. The producer, Alex Bolpasis, seems to have a real hang on getting that big 90s rock-drums sound into the new age to remind the new generations of what they’re missing, presumably. This is a pretty solid effort by XOAN. I would recommend checking the rest of the Greenhorn album as well.

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