Full speed ahead for Son Lux guitarist Rafiq Bhatia Saturday at Mass MoCA

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NORTH ADAMS — If you hear guitarist Rafiq Bhatia's 2012 album, "Yes It Will," you may feel transported to the dark, boozy confines of a jazz club.

Don't get too comfortable.

Bhatia's music doesn't exist solely for that realm; his tunes can switch genres faster than his fingers move around his instrument, which is to say, fast. His guitar isn't so much a fixed object as it is a vehicle that is plugged into different sound worlds, incorporating both the electronic and acoustic at different moments.

"It's almost like I'm controlling a system," Bhatia told The Eagle during a recent telephone interview.

The Son Lux guitarist will bring that system to the Mass MoCA's Club B10 on Saturday, accompanied by drummer Ian Chang (a fellow Son Lux member) and bassist Jackson Hill. It's a new trio that will play instrumental numbers most people haven't heard yet, according to Bhatia.

"It's a lot more sonically intricate," he said of his new music compared to his older tunes.

His vintage numbers weren't sonically deprived, mind you.

"Bhatia's music signals freedom, but it isn't lightweight. Listening to him play the guitar can feel like sipping water from a pressure washer. Which is to say, it approximates life in the information age, an era that douses us with data," wrote The Washington Post's Chris Richards in a 2013 piece.

More recently, SFGATE's Carlos Valladares caught Bhatia playing with a different group in San Francisco on Jan. 21.

"He eked out tremulous guitar runs like he was possessed with the spirit of Santana. His runs were jagged, unstable — one minute, the guitar was placid wind chimes; the next, it had a violent Hendrix-like grit to its feedback," Valladares wrote.

Bhatia doesn't like to associate his sound with other guitarists; he's more apt to name artists and producers from hip-hop, his first musical love.

"A lot of my approach to the guitar has been making it into something it's not," he said.

But if you press him, he'll admit that listening to Jimi Hendrix was a major reason why he plays the instrument.

"Right when I thought I was diverging, I realized he was right there," Bhatia said.

The 30-year-old Brooklyn resident also mentioned a guitarist that Mass MoCA knows well: Bill Frisell, a FreshGrass Composition Commission recipient.

"He's somebody that has pushed the limitations of what guitar can do in a way that comes from a really deep love [for the instrument]. ...He's always able to control that system with a very meticulous touch," Bhatia said.

Bhatia will aim to do the same on Saturday night, perhaps disorienting the audience at times with improvisation.

"There's a lot of trying to make the unfamiliar sounds feel familiar," he said, "and familiar sounds feel alien."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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