Michael Brook: The Man with the Infinite Guitar

By Ransom, Kevin | Guitar Player, March 1994 | Go to article overview

Michael Brook: The Man with the Infinite Guitar


Ransom, Kevin, Guitar Player


A guitarist who's also an electronic music visionary eventually has to deal with the perception that his music is primarily computer-generated, and that he doesn't have the chops to reproduce those supple studio sounds in a live setting. Michael Brook's new 4 A.D. release, Live At The Aquarium, resoundingly deflects such groundless nattering.

Recorded at the aquarium in the London Zoo, the live album includes performances of several songs from Cobalt Blue, Brook's '92 studio release. Though sparer and less textured than on Cobalt Blue, the live performances are equally compelling and just as melodically inventive. Brook coaxes cascading, impressionistic aural colors from his infinite guitar - a Tokai Stratocaster that he's hot-rodded with a box that generates electromagnetic feedback and provides a continuous sustainable tone. His haunting, atmospheric melodies build slowly, with subtle but deliberate progressions from one note to another. At times the melody line adopts a steely, edgy tone and flirts with dissonance, a la early-'80s Tangerine Dream.

The "infinite guitar" is Brook's own innovation, and although he won't totally reveal how it works, since he may want to manufacture it for sale, he says it "essentially simulates standing beside a very loud amp. It's very organic, and when I play a note on one string, I get a harmonic, but if I play it on another string, I don't get a harmonic. And if I play a barre chord, eventually one or two strings begin to dominate. My infinite has a much strong effect than an E-Bow, and I use pedals to give me more or less of it."

Providing sonic counterpoint to Brook's tremulous guitar shimmers on Cobalt Blue were string arrangements, acoustic percussion, vibraphone, keyboard bass, etc., compliments of Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois, and James Pinker, among others. But on Live At The Aquarium, Brook's infinite guitar melodies are accompanied only by his own synthesized ambient percussion tracks. The sparer arrangements put more emphasis on his African, Indian, and Arabic influences, but Brook says he was less influenced by Arabic and Indian guitar methods than by their "melodic structures, the concepts of tuned percussion and pentatonic, repeating melodies."

The infinite guitarr unit has allowed Brook to adopt some of the ornamentation and articulation of Arabic and Indian music. …

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