Top Ten Songs Which Prominently Feature the EBow

posted by RedTimbre
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Playing the guitar with a violin bow was once a rebellious act.  The sound of which at best imitated a whale's mating call.  Nowadays it is taken for granted as a commonplace noise an electric guitar can and should emit.  Jimmy Page is remembered for his bowing of his electric guitar in the song "Dazed and Confused" and bands like Sigur Ros and Radiohead still opt for the classic bow.  But when Greg Heet invented the EBow in 1969, bowing the guitar became much more fashionable (and convenient).  The device (EBow stands for Electronic Bow or Energy Bow) is powered by battery and creates an electromagnetic vibration that sounds like a classical string instrument in its lack of plucked frets (they are moreso glided over with an endless sustain).  The sound is especially great for creating haunting, intangible atmospherics.  Here are ten songs by ten artists who put the EBow to great use.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:36 PM
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Unforgettable Fire marked a lot of changes in U2's career, for the better; it was the first album in which the band collaborated with producer Brian Eno, who would go on to produce U2's biggest, stadium-filling albums (e.g. Joshua Tree, All That You Can't Leave Behind, Achtung Baby, No Line on the Horizon...).  As a result, the band pushed itself into more experimental territory, most notably in some of the sounds the Edge was making.  While touring with this album, he found himself using an EBow a lot more, to add one more layer of reinforcement to a fully-insulated wall of sound.  This album is interesting because it still shows a band still struggling with the idea of a fixed identity, whereby more risks are taken, and more rewards are dished out to the listener.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:24 PM
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Interpol is best characterized by a gripping double guitar attack; like a lobster with two claws, one seraded and one molared.  On the band's second album they do more than just chomp and tear, and take their dynamic to new moody depths.  In "Take You on a Cruise,"  we witness some feisty riffing and jagged grooving, but we also get a foggy view of of the ocean floor with moments where we hear not one but two E-Bowed guitars struggling for air and under the pressure of a deep-sea soundscape.  We are taken on a cruise indeed.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:48 PM
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Prog rock is synonymous with self-indulgent excess and a resistance to repitition.  And Genesis was a band that didn't like to make the same sounds over and over again (perhaps that's why Peter Gabriel left).  If you were listen to any of Peter Gabriel's solo work, you'd hear an affinity for odd sound combinations and instruments that you don't hear everyday.  This song, which pairs a buoyant menagerie of plucked strings and a coasting EBow, exemplifies that mentality of trying new things all the time.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:28 PM
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This song is the quintessence of the Smashing Pumpkins sound: it contains a million guitar layers of gentle, unrestrained restraint before it erupts into a sudden bout of violent riffing and clatter.  Within that society of sound, is lone guitar layer, wandering about with the help of an E-Bow, which offers no signs of easy defeat.  At least as long as Billy Corgan is seated in a God-like position over it all.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:26 PM
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This nineties britpop gem is steeped in heavy Beatles influence. And guitar.  Lots and lots of guitar.  While the intro piano riff recalls John Lennon's "Imagine" (as do Noel Gallagher's shades)--and later in the video we see the pianist hidden behind some kind of net and out of the way--the rest of the song is replete with thoughtful guitar chords and leading lines at every corner.  While there is a string section hushed out by the show-stealing guitar-playing, an EBow slips into the mix to make absolutely sure there is no dead space.  Decadence is the key here, and much all over Oasis's turbulent career.

posted 6/13/2012 01:21 AM
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you forgot most post-Belew live versions of Heroes by David Bowie
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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:42 PM
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It may be completely obvious to say this, but "Pearl Jam" have grown up with time.  Yes, they've come along way since the day they decided to become a grunge band, and name that band after human ejaculate.  It's as if they've found some kind of enlightenment, the kind that makes Eddy Vedder write folk songs about surfing and release an album full of songs written on the ukelele.  On their most recent album Backspacer, they seem to have backspaced all the stupid ideas they'd have generally considered acceptable ten years ago and opted for a more mature, even beautiful sound.  The song "Wishlist" has Vedder listing very responsible, and peaceful, desires in the form of a guitar-driven college rock anthem.  To enrichen the sentiment one degree further--a degree further than a B.A. in philosophy--some E-Bowed guitar adds the flowing lifeblood to a song with a beating heart.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:25 PM
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Coldplay's first album is a smart mixture of emotions and organic instrumental textures.  The songwriting prowess is self-evident by how much sound is poured out of one guitar and one organ/piano (granted the beauty is in the layers).  It is little wonder why this hyper-consistent band got so huge so fast.  But looking back at Parachutes, which is no less the powerhouse it was in the early 00's, it seems you can still find new rewards with every subsequent listen.  Picking apart the guitar layers is especially gratifying.  Take this track, which pairs acoustic piano with glossy guitar squirms, and underscores it all with an additional e-bowed guitar layer to create a fully saturated bed of sound.    

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:38 PM
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It may surprise and pleasure people to know that guitarist Johnny Greenwood, key songwriting force behind Radiohead, is actually classically trained in music theory and often composes scores for Radiohead (whenever you hear an elegant string section) as well as the occasional film soundtrack (e.g. There Will Be Blood).  But when Radiohead wants to go out and simply be a 5- (and occasionally six) piece unit, without dragging around a full blown orchestra from city to city, they have to make some accomodations in order to play select fan favorites.  This is where the EBow comes in handy; while recreating what sounds like a series of violins and cellos, a guitar can stand in (Ed O'Brien in many cases) to underscore the essential guitar parts and keep that impactful depth intact.

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:22 PM
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R.E.M. sound subdued on their album New Adventures in Hi-Fi, but that isn't to say they aren't teeming with more sound and vitality than they ever have in albums to follow.  Less channeling Velvet Underground propulsion that their early work revels in, they've embraced their chart-topping ennui and turned complacency into a hunger for the familiar.  This song has Michael Stipe speak-singing what appear to be carefully-observant journal entries while guitarist Peter Buck plays over his jangling self with a droning E-Bow.  The pain of boredom is presented, yet has proven to be terribly destructive in recent years (vis-a-vis the band's break-up).

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by RedTimbre - 5/23/2012 05:27 PM
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Words do not apply to this album; it is after all called "( )," an unutterable pair of symbols (parentheses) not unlike that time Prince wanted to be called [undefined figure that cannot be spoken, only seen].  Furthermore, none of the tracks were originally given proper names, simply being referred to as "untitled" with a number in tow. The album is a mostly aural soundscape of lyricless vocals and moaning guitars, and that moaning sound you are hearing is the sound of a guitar being played like a rusty cello with a bow, or--in the case of this song-- an E-Bow (which is also the post hoc name of the song).  The result is a bittersweet euphany that builds and builds tension until the whole things sinks like a Titanic into the deep.

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