If Not If is the artist name for multi-instrumentalist and producer Graeme Ginsberg. “Rules defined by their possibilities, possibilities defined by their rules”.
With foundations in classic rock, prog rock and jazz-rock fusion, Ginsberg draws on diverse genres to produce exciting music that is as familiar as it is unusual. His approach to composition is that nothing should be out of bounds.
As a guitarist, Ginsberg’s playing style is distinctive and personal. He cites Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa, Adrian Belew, John Scofield, Robert Fripp and Carl Verheyen as having had the biggest impact on his approach. Meanwhile, he is an obsessive synth sound developer and designer. He uses a mix of MIDI guitar and keyboards when playing synths, to realise the widest range of dynamics.
Graeme released two EP’s at the end of 2021 and said this about the pieces;
“These EPs, which were produced in parallel and released at the same time, form a kind of diptych – what would have been a short album comprising two complete 15-minute progressive pieces if such a format had been available in distribution options.
Each EP contains a complete progressive piece, made up of distinctive sections that are separated into different tracks — the pieces were written as whole pieces with tracks segueing, but the tracks help the listener move from distinctive part to distinctive part, and also the tracks can be enjoyed as self-contained in their own right (although, being full progressive pieces, best context inevitably comes as whole).”
One of the great things about music is that it can take you out of your comfort zone and down a road less travelled. Well, the music of If Not If is a road that you would only travel in a fever dream! At first dissonant and chaotic, I really found these two E.P.s a struggle to get into.
From an email conversation I had with Graeme, these were his thoughts on ‘Sunshine Everywhere’;
“Immediately compelling, the music is as familiar as it is unusual, building from a hypnotic, harmonised textural spoken word development and moving through a variety of contrasting moods and genres, primarily progressive rock, fusion, electronic, cinematic, new wave, post-rock, experimental and world rhythms.”
He encouraged me to persevere with the music and I am so glad that I did because, once you allow yourself to open to the music and immerse yourself in it, it starts to tell you a story in your mind. Now this story will probably not be the same for any of us but I found ‘Sunshine Everywhere’ became fascinating and making more sense with each further listen. Dark, dystopian and almost mischievously stygian in places and then, at times, the metaphorical sun would come out from behind an obfuscating cloud and lighten up the whole piece with an impish impudence. This E.P. reminds me of some of the work of King Crimson and VdGG, almost impenetrable for the man in the street but, for those prepared to step into the unknown, the rewards are there to be found.
Written in four parts, yet you need to listen to the whole E.P. in once listen as each part is a sum of the whole and does not stand easily alone. This unique sound is actually quite refreshing after the diet of relatively audience friendly music I have been fed recently and it almost resets the brain to what music can actually be.
“Written and produced between March 2020 and September 2021 as a response to the confinement during, and subsequent release from, the Covid lockdowns, ‘Forgiveness’ is, by turns, provocative, electrifying and cathartic, the piece moves through diverse genres, primarily progressive rock, electronic indie, art rock, cinematic, post-rock, experimental, jazz fusion and world rhythms.”
Graeme’s words on the second E.P. tell of a more relaxed piece of work than ‘Sunshine Everywhere’, less discordant and turbulent and that is the case in most ways. However there is still that note of anarchism in the music and an anti authoritarian vibe running throughout.
After repeated listens I came to feel that this E.P. could lend itself as theme music to an obscure early 1970’s sc-fi film or a seriously warped version of 1960’s TV favourite ‘The Prisoner’, it has that eery but knowing feel to it where, to most people, the notes just don’t make sense but when you get it, it’s a eureka moment.
The deep, thoughtful intelligence of this music comes through as you let it infuse your mind, almost like a raw, otherworldly, out of body experience, it really isn’t for everybody but once you’ve experienced it and it rhymes with your soul and your mind, you are hooked.
So, to sum up, if you like to challenge yourself and you are prepared to move out of your comfort zone when it comes to your listening pleasure, you really ought to let If Not If into your life. It may not be for you but, if we didn’t challenge ourselves and expand our horizons, we’d still be lighting fires with sticks and living in the stone age!
‘Sunshine Everywhere’ released 26th November, 2021.
‘Forgiveness’ released 3rd December, 2021.