Heikalo unleashes intriguing CD trio

Stephen Pederson, The Sunday Herald, January 28, 2001

Welcome to the weird, wired and wonderful world of Wolfvillebased guitarist, musician, photographer, composer, sound-designer and improviser Daniel Heikalo.

The cittern and prepared guitar recordings he made himself in his Horton Landing recording studio. The collaboration with Valleybased colleague Arthur Bull, which also includes much play on prepared guitars, is on the Ambiances magnétiques Label, which consistently produces the best, most interesting, and artistically astonishing recordings in Canada and Québec’smusiques actuelles” scene.

But here comes the cautionary disclaimer. If you are not a completely open-minded listener with fresh ears, if you are one of those who knows damn well what you like and refuses to listen to anything else, give these recordings a pass. But for anyone interested in the art of music, and in the labyrinthine ways down which that music is found, these charming and artistically brilliant performances will produce a shock of recognition: Heikalo’s music is liberated, original and unique.

He borrows heavily from all kinds of world traditions, but mixes them up in spontaneous yet disciplined outbursts of musical imagery full of often startling melody, harmony, rhythm and unpredictable sounds. On his Web site ( which he shares with his artist partner Tarnara Thiebaux, he describes his music asfreeform folk improvisational — blues, bluegrass, Appalachian, Celtic, Turkish’ Greek, Arabic and Klezmer.”

Eagle’s Paradise, subtitled The Cittern Project, is entirely dedicated to the four-course, doublestringed, lute-like cittern that, when amplified and played with abottle-neck” slide, as it is on Gaspereau Delta Blues, sounds like a cross between an Indian sitar and a dobro. The recording is pristine in its clarity, and Heikalo’s virtuosity is transparently admirable. He is drawn to minor scales and much influenced by mid-Eastern and Indian modalities. His melodies are haunting and exotic and atmospherically suggestive.

Each track is a single take; since Heikalo is an improviser, his compositions are different each time he plays them. Musically he ranges from the melancholy dance of Goodnight Desdemona (with Ken Shorley on percussion) to the rich and dramatic soundscape of Dans les ruelles d’un navet décoloré (In the Backlanes of a Discoloured Turnip). The Art of the Prepared Guitar is a fascinating exploration of how paper clips, alligator clips, a Parker pen, and even an eggslicer can alter the sound of both electric and acoustic guitars in a way that inspires a creative mind such as Heikalo’s to make gn unearthly and quite beautiful music.

Some of his experiments include a minimum of electronic signal processing, but it never draws attention to itself in the world of slides, and resonances, and tambourinesque jingles and jangles produced by the way he handles the various gadgets attached to the guitar strings. His duo recording with Arthur Bull includes both musicians playing prepared guitars, Bull adding an ebow (electronic bow) and slides, Heikalo contributing cittern, percussion and voice.

This ls the wildest music of all as the two musicians produce a musical weather as formless as clouds buffeted and torn by errant winds, and mirroring light. Thedérapages” of the title (Dérapages à cordes) refers to an anchor slipping, and there is a-lot of that as the musicians egg each other on. Again, the minor scale and the world music exotica of the middle East dominates, but there is so much deconstruction going on in these improvisations, it would be more accurate just to call it all coloured sound. A word about Heikalo surrealist titles. He writes that kind of poetry. Eg: L’intergiboulaison des mages infundibuliformes (interacting squalls of funnel-shaped wizards—I think, with Le Petit Robert Dictionnaire at hand), or En attendant la vendeuse de toupies chantantes (Waiting upon the seller of singing tops), or Tintamarre de boulingrin (Noise of the bowling-green).