Despite its projected eminence, the title “guitar virtuoso” isn’t always a good thing – not when it conjures images of self-indulgent hard rock ax-men from decades past. But in the case of Philly’s Chris Forsyth, the term registers with its intended effect. Forsyth mixes styles ranging from delta and electric blues to folk, ambient, and prog, sometimes diving but more often easing into seemingly unending psychedelic spirals, and he does it all by his lonesome, sucking you in with shockingly beautiful arrangements that do anything but call to mind dinosaurs like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai.

Six months after releasing the brilliant Kenzo Deluxe on Brooklyn’s Northern-Spy Records, Forsyth is out on tour and he’s playing two Bay Area gigs this week, starting tonight at the Hemlock opening for Sic Alps with Bill Orcutt and Meg Baird. After a quick trip up to Sacramento for a house show on Friday night, he then returns to the Bay for a set at the Berkeley Arts Festival on Saturday with Blood Wedding and the Heule/Shelton/Wick Trio.

Kenzo Deluxe was Forsyth’s first album on Northern-Spy, home to the likes of legendary avant-garde multi-instrumentalist and composer Rhys Chatham, British underground garage rock icon Dan Melchior (who now plays under the moniker Dan Melchior Und Das Menace), and stalwart of the New York D.I.Y. scene Colin Langenus (USAISAMONSTER, Colin L. Orchestra, CSC Funk Band). The record has many parallels with the work of Chatham, the New York institution known for his “guitar orchestras,” but comes from a more sludgy, bluesy, and tripped-out place. It’s easy to get lost in the compositions, some of which last ten minutes or more, gently ebbing and flowing, repeatedly enveloping the listener in warm and comforting, yet often angular tones. Across only five tracks but lasting more than 40 minutes, Kenzo Deluxe never fails to keep your attention.

Thus far, Forsyth has released two videos from the album, for the tracks “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” and “Boston Street Lullaby No. 2”. The former video is exactly what it portends to be, following the first ten-plus minutes of the legendary unreleased Rolling Stones’ tour documentary from 1972, while the latter is a nature walk on LSD. Watch both below:

Prior to joining Northern Spy, Forsyth was nothing if not prolific, accounting for nearly 40 releases dating back to his 1998 solo 7-inch 071797 / 102597. In addition to several solo records, he has played in a handful of bands including psi (aka Peeesseye), Phantom Limb & Bison, Dirty Pool, and All Time Present. Check out his entire discography (with links to purchase) on his webpage, or listen to a bunch of tracks over on SoundCloud. Forsyth also recorded a dope live session at Jersey City’s iconic WFMU last July, which features extended takes on three Kenzo Deluxe tracks and can be downloaded at the Free Music Archive.

Sic Alps, Chris Forsyth, Bill Orcutt, Meg Baird
Hemlock Tavern
January 10, 2013
8pm, $8

Chris Forsyth, Blood Wedding, Heule/Shelton/Wick Trio
Berkeley Arts Festival (2133 University Avenue)
January 12, 2013