Recording information: Guitar Center.
Steve Peacock, the audacious San Francisco musician operating under the Apprentice Destroyer moniker, covertly recorded his debut album entirely within the confines of a branch of musical instrument retailer Guitar Center. While this sounds like the realized dream of many a Jimmy Page-worshiping axe wielder, Glass Ceiling Universe is remarkable for how it avoids sounding like a self-indulgent pile of rehashed classic rock riffs, instead ending up a highly creative audio document of a solitary man-machine plotting against humanity in public. The album's ten instrumental compositions range from speedy, guitar-heavy Krautrock (opener "Chrome Temple") to hissy, slightly noisy ambient techno ("Pulse Garden"), utilizing gear from every corner of the store. While there's guitar soloing on this album, it sounds a lot closer to Manuel Göttsching than anyone gracing the cover of Guitar Player magazine. Nine-minute centerpiece "The Cloud Fortress" layers cascading synths with gated guitar effects, creating a mesmerizing sonic odyssey. One wonders what the patrons and staffers of the shop thought while this album was being recorded; abrasive, clanging closer "Welcome, Destroyer" might've caused a few potential customers to head for the door, if not an assistant manager to call security. The brief "Jovian Sky" sounds like it may as well have been recorded in an arcade rather than a music store, with its blaring, neon-like electronic tones and canned drum-machine beats. Amusingly enough, "Chromosome Choir" samples chatter from excited-sounding employees conversing with customers over the phone about which snare drums are in stock ("oh nice, that's my stuff, man!"), giving a behind-the-scenes peek at the music nerd enthusiasm that went into recording this album. The album has a menacing atmosphere suggesting an evil mankind-despising robot, but it seems more fun and lighthearted than it does threatening. Glass Ceiling Universe could've just turned out to be a silly novelty record, or an unbearable slog of wannabe-virtuosic guitar wankery, but instead it's a gleefully chaotic album by an intrepid avenger who seems to be thrilled by how much he can get away with. ~ Paul Simpson