Pesky Digits

Pesky Digits





GITBOX: Pidgin for the group's chosen instrument, the steel-string acoustic guitar.
REBELLION: A subversion of the orthodoxy in the guitar's native jazz/blues/rock tradition.

Sounding better than ever, Rattle's first release was remastered, repackaged and reissued in 2011 to celebrate our twenty-first year as NZ's pre-eminent art-music label. Pesky Digits is as fresh and compelling as ever. Exuberant and life-affirming, the music of Gitbox Rebellion is as finger-pickin' good as ever. Igor Stravinsky meets Pete Townshend, only to find they have a lot in common.



Gitbox Rebellion emerged blinking into the public spotlight in 1988. Previously instigated by Nigel Gavin as a workshop for players of mixed experience, the group quickly outgrew its original brief. Technique improved rapidly, the pieces became more complex, and Gitbox Rebellion, the performance unit, was born. The guitar is generally perceived as a user-friendly instrument. As Nigel says: '... the most popular in the world. People are more willing to accept diverse music being played on acoustic guitar, than by a symphony orchestra or an organ, or even an electric guitar.'

Yet the guitar is not naturally endowed with either vast dynamic range or timbral variety. Some application was required to explore the sonic potential of the instruments, particularly in ensemble. Various techniques were improvised, involving such esoterica as pipe-cleaners, coins, broken strings and jelly-tip sticks. The essence of Gitbox Rebellion's sound was reaffirmed: textured, wall to wall guitars. And the traditional acoustic character of the instrument remains fundamental. It's a touchstone when everything else about the music becomes unfamiliar. For, lulled into a false sense of security, listeners soon discover they have embraced a Trojan horse. Then the mild mannered acoustic character is extended to dynamic effect.

Simultaneous with the development of musical dynamics has was that of the unit itself. Gitbox members were learning how to function as 'a group'. Alternative disciplines were explored. The big band. The chamber ensemble. The rock group. The 'avante-guardistes' ... A major step forwards was taken early in 1990 when the group was exposed to the rigourous Guitarcraft approach, founded by Robert Fripp. This not only helped in further developing technique, but also provided a philosophical focus. Each player became more conscious of what it is to be a musician, and of the need 'to allow music itself to speak.'

While opportunities exist for improvisation, the pieces are tightly structured. Composition had originally come about in response to a lack of repertoire. Since then writing has become integral to the musicianship of many members. Ultimately, emerging repertoire demanded a still broader palette of sounds, and so Gitbox Rebellion has turned to an expanded tuning. This album captures the exploration: from conventional, to altered, to 'new standard' - a cello-like voicing which, by expanding the register of the instrument, has enabled work on a quasi-orchestral scale.

Links with The League of Crafty Guitarists, the Guitarcraft flagship ensemble, have continued, particularly in the 'dual citizenship' of Nigel Gavin, who performs in both groups. With time, however, the group has come to an awareness of its own particular sound, ethos, and emotional range. While acknowledging the importance of its South Pacific location, Gitbox Rebellion offers few musical tags to make this locale immediately obvious. The themes reflect the group's international outlook. Yet a distillation of influences emerges which could only have occurred on an out of the way island at the end of the earth.

"Gitbox make unique music and it is captured superbly on this immaculately packaged debut..."
- Graham Reid, NZ HERALD

"...jazz inspiration and rock audacityÉa fascinating insight into our most popular instrument's sonic potential."
- Mark Amery, STAMP

"...original, challenging, and complex compositions... unique and rewarding musical ambience..."

"...just how nine guitars can weave together as a sound really has to be experienced... displays a technical skill and artistic commitment that leaves the majority of rock musicians in a very shady place."
- Rodney Fletcher, CHRISTCHURCH MAIL

"Beautifully recorded stops, starts and surprises."
- Nick Bollinger, THE LISTENER




RAT-D001 (July, 1991)

Gitbox Rebellion are:
Nigel Gavin, Kim Halliday, Jonathan Pease, Robert Hall, Tom Hanrohan, Tim Bowman, Russell Hughes, Tim Gummer, Wes Prince, Bodie Hermans and Robert van der Laan

Director and Arranger: Nigel Gavin
Producer and Engineer: Tim Gummer
Executive Producer: Keith Hill
Recorded and Mixed at: Progressive Music Studio
Front Cover Artwork: Graham Gash
Booklet Photo Montages: Steve Garden
Original Design: Peter Hardie
Reissue Design: Carvan
Special thanks to: Tony Geballe, Suzi Hawes and Crafties everywhere, Graham Gash, Chris Burt, the Kathy Pelly Maungarongo Trust, Joy Foote, and the QEII Arts Council
Remastered by Steve Garden at the Garden Shed, Auckland, May 2011


Pesky Digits
1 Foreword (0:18)
2 Two Iguanas (4:23)
3 Threnody for Francisco Mendez (6:50)
4 A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur (2:26)
5 Prelude (0:35)
6 Leaving Home (2:55)


Pesky Digits (a suite in ten parts) (20:24)
7 Four Play (0:47)
8 Zygote (2:29)
9 Terrible Twos (0:50)
10 Pesky Digits (1:32)
11 Full Silly Bullets (1:15)
12 Knock & Knowall (1:23)
13 The Shedding (0:27)
14 Intension (1:45)
15 The Freeman's Apprentice (2:30)
16 The Penny Drops (7:25)

17 Afterword (0:44)
18 The Hypocrites (3:23)

Total playing time (47:00)