THE PINHOOK, DURHAM—During the last decade, Chris Forsyth's star as an indispensible instrumentalist has risen. The Philadelphia-based musician's name has been discussed in the same breath as other guitar slingers of great skill and dynamic understanding—Chuck Johnson, Daniel Bachman, Steve Gunn and even the late Jack Rose.
But during the past six months, Forsyth and his powerhouse group, the Solar Motel Band, have reached new levels of recognition. Intensity Ghost, issued by No Quarter in October, is a startlingly vivid collection of instrumentals, where complicated psych-jazz guitar lines interweave with a smart, sturdy rhythm section. The set has wound up on a batch of high-profile best-of lists, including that of New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones and British magazine Uncut.
"It's nice to see a little bump like that," Forsyth says of such accolades. "To have some sustaining interest is really hard to do. It seems like a month later, everyone's on to something else."
To that last point, Forsyth might as well be talking about himself. One of the guitarist's hallmarks has been a restlessness that compels him to seek out new avenues of expression and collaborators. He's offered perception-altering improvs with Mountains synth maestro Koen Holtkamp and trumpeter Nate Wooley. And with the Solar Motel Band, Forsyth intends to never play the same set twice, leaving plenty of space in his compositions so that he and guitarist Nick Millevoi can extemporize.
"A lot of the songs have big holes in them where pretty much anything can happen," Forsyth says. "It forces us to concentrate. You get these magic moments that you can't plan for."
For that reason, Forsyth loves to share live recordings of his band on SoundCloud. Right now, for instance, several crisply captured sets from late last year show Millevoi and Forsyth going off on "Dark Star"-like tangents and some snaky rockers, a la his beloved Television.
"That's the really unique thing about this band," he says. "A lot of people you see can only do the free improvisation and challenging stuff, or you see people that only play garage rock. I always wanted to have a band that could do both—have compelling songs and have this place where the songs kind of blow up." With Lud. 8 p.m., $10, 117 W. Main St., Durham, 919-667-1100, thepinhook.com. —Robert Ham