Dominic Frasca is hardly a traditional guitar hero. From his beginning stabs at imitating young favorites Hendrix, Van Halen and Angus Young, he’s evolved into an expert arranger, composer and interpreter with a studied but not restrictively academic method, and his obsessive impulses do not stop at perfecting a sparkling clean finger-pick technique.
The modified classical guitar of Deviations holds ten strings and allows him to play multiple complementary phrases in tandem. Frasca can miraculously justify the eighteen-minute run time of a piece such as Phillip Glass’s “Two Pages” with deceptively natural variations on a single chord. In a telling career credit, Steve Reich chose Frasca’s recording “Electric Guitar Phase” (itself a transcription of the composer’s “Violin Phase”) for inclusion on the 2001 work Triple Quartet, and that relatively sedated performance only began to hint at the intricacies present on this first solo date.
Frasca’s own material draws from the minimalist tradition of layered countermelodies that ultimately gel into a single organic swarm, swelling to dramatic points of repetition that test the physical endurance of the performer and his audience. After absorbing the album, I felt sure that its endlessly overlapping riffs required live sampling or overdubbing of some kind. But Frasca makes a pointed statement to the contrary in the liner notes, and the brilliance of his technique becomes even more obvious with this knowledge. On the record’s massive title track, he manages to move through multiple movements and sudden chord changes while simultaneously playing his instrument’s hollow body as a manual percussion instrument.
Those wary of “contemporary classical” or “new music” (for lack of less hackneyed phrases) may, in spite of themselves, find something refreshing in the unconventional pieces of Deviations, and all serious guitarists are best advised to listen and marvel at Frasca’s instrumental mastery. He is simply that good.