You can’t keep a good guitarist down. Or something like that. Ian Bouras’s latest release A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space proves that adage as the New York City musician who lives his everyday life with a rare and progressive neurological condition called Ataxia that over time affects motor skills nonetheless continues to write and create fantastic music as a way of giving a hearty middle finger to those who might think his condition limits him. The live DVD release is an unusual way to present any musical work of this type and further sets it apart but, at its heart, it’s the musical performances that separate it from the pack. He has crafted idiosyncratic music marching to the beat of its own drummer for some time now and this release is probably the finest distillation yet of his artistic potential – but you get the sense, upon finishing it, that there’s even more to come.

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The well thought nature of these six performances is impossible to ignore. Bouras may not have these compositions written out, per se, but it is clear he has a firm idea of his artistic goals when you start hearing the music for this. Part 1 introduces us to the primary melodic ideas that will resurface multiple times through the piece – this doesn’t mean Bouras has a wont of repeating himself but, rather, this release has an unity of sound and spirit that the first part establishes. Consider it a thesis statement of a kind. Part 2 elaborates on the opening track while remaining close to the thematic elements that distinguish Part 1. He blends chords, melody, and guitar phrases together as if he pulls them out of the ether – the sounds were always there, they just were waiting for Bouras to give them voice.

Part 3 is one of the more affecting moments on the release. It has an even greater emotional weight than the previous entries and the filming of the performance does him justice capturing the creation of the musical moment. Discerning viewers will undoubtedly admire how the camera work embraces a no frills aesthetic in documenting these performances – it is exactly what they demand and nothing more. To risk cliché, you can really see how Bouras loses himself in a performance like this – he engages in an intimate dialogue with his instrument and the music they create together and you almost feel like you should look away and just listen.

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Part 5 is another peak moment included on this release. Bouras adds some percussive qualities to this performance missing from the previous parts thanks to actions as simple as slapping his palm against muffled strings, scratching them, and light tapping. It forms the base for the track’s foundational loop and Bouras builds from there. Part 6 brings listeners and viewers back to square one, in a way, with its unfettered love of melody and feels like a brief epilogue of sorts for the musical journey we’ve taken with him. It’s a worthwhile excursion in every way. Ian Bouras’ A Chipmunk’s Interpretation of Space defies easy categorization and invites repeated viewings.

Sebastian Cole