Cheat Sheet: The Guitar and Other Machines

Last week I was packing up boxes in my mother's basement in Portland, Ore., when I came across an old favorite: Fennesz' 2001 album Endless Summer. Not the most germane music for sorting through thousands of LPs and CDs, perhaps I find my teenage punk favorites get the job done a lot quicker but it turned out to be the perfect fit for July's sweltering weather. As I nursed a cold Ninkasi Radiant Ale with the hum of the freeway wafting over the pine tops, deciduous leaves wind-whipped into a white-green froth in the hazy afternoon light, Fennesz' pink-noise fantasia felt tailor-made for the scene.

Apologies if that prose rubs you purple, but Christian Fennesz' super-saturated music tends to have that effect on the senses: working with guitars and computers, the Viennese musician has a way of turning the six-string's ring into a powdery, pastel explosion of color and texture. Endless Summer, as its Beach Boys-riffing title suggests, is a pipeline to the sublime.

Listening to that record now as it happens, it turns 10 years old this summer got me thinking about the wealth of guitar-centric electronic music of the past couple of decades. Just as six measly strings can produce an infinite rainbow of tones, musicians working across post-rock, electronica, shoegaze, heavy metal and even house have found innumerable ways of folding guitars into digital forms. Explore a selection of approaches in the albums below, and check out our associated playlist for an immersive look into humbucking drones, finger-picked glitch, axe-handled house music, and more.

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