Gitkin-5 Star Motel.

Label: Wonderwheel Recordings.

Release Date: ‘6th’ April 2018.

A lifetime ago, a mysterious man known only as Gitkin, once dreamt of forging a career as a musician, but when his dreams were shattered, he bought a consignment of knock-off Gibson guitars which he sold, as he travelled the length and breadth of the land of the free. After a while, it was the only thing that Gitkin knew, and he was content to hustle his way through life, living on his wits and sailing close precariously close to the wind. 

Usually he booked into a low rent hotel on the wrong side of town, and that night, would seek out his marks in a local dive bar who might be in the market for a cheap guitar. It was a slick, clever and practised pitch, with Gitkin shooting the breeze with a newcomer or stranger in town, and after putting them at ease, he made his pitch. Most times, he had chosen his mark well, and soon would be closing the sale.

The pair would step outside away from prying eyes and any off-duty law enforcement officer, where Gitkin would take a guitar from the trunk of his car and show it to the mark  under the moonlight. That was when Gitkin’s guitars looked their best. However, they  always sounded their best when Gitkin unleashed some of his trademark licks which he had honed and perfected over the years he spent on the road. This was always enough to close the sale, and  after that, Gitkin moved on to the next dive bar knowing that his guitar licks had made a difference. 

Over the years, Gitkin had watched and learned from some seasoned guitarists down on their luck, tried and bought his guitars. After that, Gitkin returned to his hotel room where he practised the licks he had witnessed into he early hours, then and continued to dream.

Like many other guitarists, Gitkin had always dreamt that one day he would become a professional musician, but that never panned out, and instead, he had fallen into the life of a hustler, who made a living selling third-rate, rebadged guitars in dive bars which were akin to fool’s gold. In Gitkin’s world, all that glittered wasn’t gold. 

Sometimes, though, away from the hustle, Gitkin chanced on late night jam sessions in backstreet bars, and would sit in as with local musicians and play until the early hours. These were the nights that Gitkin remembered and enjoyed, when there was no hustle and he could spend a few hours doing what he loved, making music. 

Other times, after Gitkin arrived in town and had made some and connections, they would head to someones apartment or a hotel room, and everyday objects became makeshift instruments. Gitkin and his newfound friends would play and shoot the breeze until the early hours or until someone complained, and the party came to an abrupt end. Even then, Gitkin remembered these nights fondly as he arrived in another town, where he risked life and limb on another hustle.

Always though, Gitkin managed to survive, even if it was by the skin of his teeth, and burning rubber as he shot a red to escape an unhappy mark. Later, and long after Gitkin had called time on his career hustling, he started to recall the years he spent living on his wits and the days of daring do and close calls when he sailed perilously close to the wind. Not many members of Gitkin’s family wanted to hear his stories as they were hard-working respectable people. They didn’t want  to hear his Gitkin’s secrets. That only came  much later. 

Long after Gitkin had passed away, and gone to sell knock-off guitars in the next world, his nephew Brian J Gitkin heard about his uncle and his past which the family were reluctant to talk about. However, Brian J Gitkin who was by then an up-and-coming musician, had never met the mysterious guitar salesman, and eventually managed to persuade some of his relatives to tell him about the man and his colourful past. 

This he knew wasn’t going to be easy as Gitkin’s huckster lifestyle was off-limits at family gatherings. However, some of the older members of the family could be encouraged to reminisce about Gitkin and his colourful lifestyle. Eventually, after spending many a late night listening to steady stream anecdotes about Gitkin, his nephew was almost able to piece together the life and times of the old guitar salesman. However, the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Brian J Gitkin found an old cassette which featured some of his uncle’s songs. This was a game-changer for Brian J Gitkin.

Having borrowed a tape recorder, he sat down and started to listen to the music on the cassette which he collected to his ho-fi and pressed play. Although the music was decidedly lo-fi and scratchy, Brian J Gitkin was captivated by the music’s otherworldly quality and listened as his late uncle as he seamlessly switched between musical genres, playing everything from Tuareg funk to Peruvian chicha and even Turkish psych. Despite having a relatively educated musical palette, Brian J Gitkin sometimes struggled to discerner between the musical genres. This didn’t matter as he was transfixed as he listened to uncle he never knew, who was obviously a talented and versatile musician, who never had the opportunity to fulfil his potential, and instead, had embraced the hustler lifestyle. As the cassette finished, and Brian J Gitkin realised this, a sense of sadness came over him.

After some thought, Brian J Gitkin decided to record his own homage to the uncle he never knew, which became 5 Star Motel which fittingly is credited to Gitkin, and will be released by Wonderwheel Recordings on the ‘6th’ April 2018. On 5 Star Motel the Gitkin Jr expands upon his late uncle’s musical philosophy that featured on the cassette that he found.

It’s no surprise that the guitar is the common thread that runs through 5 Star Motel. This was the instrument Gitkin played as he hustled his way across America, and is the instrument that his nephew plays throughout 5 Star Motel’s twelve songs. The guitar gave birth to myriad of musical ideas, which Gitkin Jr develops with the help of an array of folkloric stringed instruments on an album that embraces disparate musical cultures. Still, it’s the guitar that takes centre-stage on 5 Star Motel, and brings everything together on this carefully crafted album that embraces an array of different cultures. They shine through on 5 Star Motel, which although is an album about travel and America, looks at the world outside the land of the free.

Essentially, 5 Star Motel with its array of musical influences is a snapshot of just America in 2018, when people come from all over the world, looking to make a new life and attempt to live the American Dream. They bring with them their own music, which becomes part of the soundtrack to modern America in 2018. This music Gitkin has used to continue what his uncle began when he recorded the music onto a cassette tape. In doing so, Gitkin squares the circle on 5 Star Motel his nephew discovered and began 

5 Star Motel opens with Tail Chaser, which canters along as a shimmering surf guitar takes centre-stage, and is a reminder of the music Gitkin’s uncle must have heard as he hustled his way across America. Gradually, the track becomes lysergic, dreamy and melodic as this captivating cinematic surf track continues to reveal its secrets. Later, it canters along, as if hinting at the Westerns that were part of the American way of life, before the track reaches a crescendo. In doing so, it sets the bar high for what follows.

This includes Canción Del Rey which picks up where Tail Chaser left off, and is a showcase for Gitkin’s fleet-fingered fuzzy guitar, while the rhythm section anchor the track, but ensure that it still swings. Meanwhile, the sound of sound of Peruvian chicha can be heard as Gitkin’s enchanting musical adventure continues to captivate. 

There’s no stopping Gitkin, and on the genre-melting Plaid Suit, where combines elements of dub, psychedelia and soul-jazz to create a lysergic and dreamy track.  Pinto by comparison is a musical roller coaster that is initially sounds psychedelic before it’s combined with a surf instrumental. Later, it’s all change and Pinto sounds as it was recorded in San Francisco at the time of the Merry Pranksters as the music floats along becoming distant, dreamy and otherworldly, before Gitkin returns to the other “side” of Pinto which has much in common with Plaid Suit.

Yama is another captivating and mesmeric instrumental where Middle Eastern influences are omnipresent. Meanwhile the driving rhythm section and dusty Hammond organ play add an element of funk as the music becomes dramatic and thanks to the Middle Eastern influences, irresistible and dancefloor friendly.  Very different is Siskayou Trail, which is slow, moody mesmeric and rich in imagery, as it paints pictures of a bleak but beautiful barren landscape.

Grand Street Feast is another genre-melting track, where he combined foggy funk with psychedelic Afrobeat as Gitkin adds to the musical melting pot, an array of sounds from far-flung paces. However, Gitkin isn’t finishes and uses filters to transform the track where a guitar and folkloric stringed instruments play starring roles during this genre-melting musical feast. It’s a similar case on Zone Jumper where an array of exotic sounds and musical genres assail the listener, teasing, taunting and tantalising them as disparate cultures collide. That is the case on Whiskey Road, which features everything from Thai to dub and electronica and even a hint of Irish music as this memorable track heads into singalong territory.

Equally memorable is El Millonario  where Gitkin is encouraged with handclaps during this cinematic track. It gives way to Fang Dubbard where not for the first time, Gitkin makes good use of tape delay and spring reverb. They add a warmth to the music as it shimmer and glistens, and sometimes, takes on a dubby, lysergic sound. These effects play an important part in the track’s sound and success of what’s one of the album’s highlights. Closing 5 Star Motel is Ohm Rider (When you Die You’ll Meet God), which veers between dubby, lysergic and ethereal sound before the music becomes melodic, jazz-tinged, intense and elegiac. In doing so, Gitkin closed his debut album on a high and finishes a story his late uncle, the mysterious guitar salesman and hustler recorded onto a cassette tape.

That was where it lay unloved, with nobody having bothered to listen to what was a veritable musical feast. This was enough to inspire Gitkin to record a homage to the uncle he never met, which became 5 Star Motel, which will be released by Wonderwheel Recordings on the ‘6th’ April 2018.

Fittingly, 5 Star Motel is an album about travel and America, which brings the story back to Gitkin’s uncle who week after week, months after month and year after year, hustled his way across America, spending each night trying to persuade marks to buy a knock-off guitar outside dive bars. These guitars looked good after several bottles of Budweiser, and may have sounded good as Gitkin’s uncle unleashed some flashy licks, but the next morning as the mark sobered up, reality struck and they realised they had been had. By then, the guitar salesman and frustrated musician was long gone, and he continued to crisscross the land of the free with a seemingly never-ending supply of knock-off guitars. Maybe if things had been different, maybe Gitkin’s uncle would’ve made a living out of music, as he had the talent, which shawn through on the cassette tape which was his musical legacy?

That cassette tape later inspired the nephew he never met to record 5 Star Motel, which was written and produced by Gitkin whose a multitalented multi-instrumentalist who played nearly every instrument on this carefully crafted homage to the uncle he never knew. It finds Gitkin combining disparate musical genres, and an array of exotic sounds from far-flung places that are now part of multicultural America in 2018. The final piece of this musical jigsaw ware the tape delay and spring reverb which Gitkin puts to good use throughout 5 Star Motel. These effects aren’t overused, and play their part in the sound and success of 5 Star Motel, which marks the debut of a truly talented musician…Gitkin. 

His carefully crafted and much-anticipated genre-melting debut album, 5 Star Motel, finds the New York based musician paying homage to the uncle he never knew during the twelve tracks on 5 Star Motel. It’s a cinematic album that is rich in imagery as Gitkin follows in his uncle’s footsteps, and he takes the listener on a musical road trip where they travel the length and breath of the land of the free with 5 Star Motel providing the soundtrack,  never once reset to selling a hooky guitar outside a dive bar.

Gitkin-5 Star Motel.

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