Recordings of new music for electric guitar are rare. Solo efforts in that field are rarer still. And albums that fully exploit the sonic capabilities of the instrument are practically unheard of, thus making Adrian Verdejo’s Modern Hearts almost a public service—at least for those of us who wonder why one of the world’s most popular instruments is so rarely featured in contemporary chamber music.
But this Vancouver-based instrumentalist’s debut is more than just a wake-up call for composers and programmers. It’s also a deeply satisfying listening experience, featuring Verdejo’s technical and technological virtuosity, as applied to six very different scores.
At times the mood is dreamy; elsewhere it’s disquieting. Jordan Nobles’ Nebula, for instance, finds Verdejo floating in space, using overdubbing, volume swells, and electronic processing to conjure up a cosmic organ. Nicole Lizée’s title track, in contrast, morphs jangly indie-rock tropes in a funhouse mirror; it’s vertiginous to the point of nausea. And James Tenney’s Septet is simply a marvel: although seemingly contemplative, it’s actually seething with energy, generated both by Verdejo’s committed performance and by the natural resonance of his retuned strings.

Works by three other innovators—Tristan Murail, Scott Edward Godin, and Rodney Sharman—round out the program, suggesting that Verdejo’s instincts are as good as his ears, hands, and heart.