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It’s a bad year for guitarists. First we lost Ron Asheton, and now Pylon‘s Randy Bewley, who suffered a fatal heart attack yesterday evening.
Pylon formed in Athens, Georgia during the late ’70s, a quartet consisting of Bewley along with bassist Michael Lachowski, singer Vanessa Briscoe-Hay, and drummer Curtis Crowe. Pylon’s music was minimalist, angular, and , but almost always danceable. They were the laid-back cousins of Gang of Four, hijacking disco rhythms and using them to drive slanted songs about banal subjects like volume, gravity, and work. It was arty music, for sure, but not the kind that felt pretentious. No, when you listened to Pylon for the first time, it made you feel smarter.
Bewley didn’t/couldn’t shred, even in the unhinged and noisy Lou Reed sense. The guitar was never the focal point of Pylon’s songs, it was always a supporting element that locked tightly in with the rhythm section. He never played solos and he rarely played traditional chord changes. But that shouldn’t suggest that Bewley’s playing was anything less that totally distinctive. On songs like “Crazy” and “Cool” he used a clean and thin tone to add subtle melodic hooks that supported Briscoe-Hay’s barked vocals. He was also a really percussive player, hammering out weird sounds—harmonics, treble-heavy staccato noise bursts—that enhanced the rhythm of songs like “Dub” and “Danger.” Most of the time though, he just locked into the groove, accentuating and expanding the melodies that were already being implied by the bass.
And he had his admirers. REM drummer Bill Berry called Pylon the best band in the world, and group eventually wound up covering “Crazy” on the b-side of its “Wendell Gee” single. More recent bands like The Rapture, Love of Diagrams, and Deerhunter have all borrowed a little bit from Bewley’s game.
After DFA re-issued Pylon’s classic album Gyrate in 2007, the group re-united for a few shows and had been performing sporadically since then. He’ll be missed, for sure.
Below I’ve attached a few select Bewley clips.
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“The Human Body”
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