Livestream Los Angeles, CA
Material: As leader of The Stash Band, Polish-Colombian guitarist Stash Wyslouch has, to date, unleashed three unconventional albums. For this livestream, he grasped his acoustic guitar and upset timid listeners with his extreme flavor of avant-garde freneticism. Best described as a radical take on bluegrass, his haywire compositions and unpredictable vocals are a hypnotic train wreck. Freewheeling interpretations of classics from Bill Monroe, The Carter Family and E.C. Ball bear the same freakish outlines as his perplexing originals.
Musicianship: Witnessing Wyslouch’s fingers dance with agility upon the neck of his acoustic amply demonstrates his instrumental competency. He’s also a teacher, making his preference for grotesque arrangements particularly incongruous. Despite moments of serenity and calm, his compositions are mostly ungraspable disasters. The listener is regularly assaulted with startling (and occasionally sour) notes, making one ponder his artistic intentions. Similarly, Wyslouch’s singing periodically transforms into a bizarre falsetto or other guttural absurdity, to baffling effect.
Performance: Although he avoided responding to audience comments, Wyslouch took multiple occasions to wish his mother a happy birthday. These sentiments culminated in dedicating “She’s a Little Old Fashioned” in her honor, despite his admission that this sentiment falls short of an accurate description.
While livestreams should be informal, it’s distracting when a performer twists anxiously back and forth. Perhaps Wyslouch should trade his swivel chair for one that cannot move. After his pick went flying through the air, he followed this accident by wryly commenting, “That’s what you get for trying to be slick, when you flick your pick.”
Summary: It’s delightful when musicians venture into unexplored territory. Having one’s expectations subverted turns listening into an adventure, something most of us could use more of during these endless days of quarantine. Yet most audiences will be unable to handle Wyslouch’s absurdist vision. For a few, stumbling onto his crazed sound will blow their minds. For most, radical reinterpretations of conservative favorites will be declared the creative output of a raving lunatic. Like an artistic litmus test, individuals will process his audacious spirit in different ways.