Interview in Guitar Moderne
Interview in Kathodik (IT)
Interview in Tiny Mix Tapes
Guitar World magazine feature in "Exposed: 10 Female Guitarists You Should Know About, Part 3"
"Oakland's avant-jazz virtuoso..." --Brad Cohan, Village Voice
"a wizard on a semi circle of effects pedals, but... equally adept with FX-less technique. Imagine Dick Dale shredding with Derek Bailey, then forget everything you know about either -- that's Ava Mendoza." --Lars Gotrich, NPR Jazz
"... a versatile and virtuosic guitarist...” --The San Franisco Film Society
"What obscure, overlooked master playing in some slashing, raw-yet- virtuosic manner is this?" --Nels Cline, liner notes to Mendoza's 20010 solo album, Shadow Stories
“Mendoza’s not an entirely earthbound player... incendiary, mind-melting
leads” --Adam Strom, Dusted Magazine
"...a visceral and insightful exploration into the [jazz] form, with as much grit, blood and bile as a Lightning Bolt album. While the tracks might start off with some kind of form, Mendoza has a unique talent of being able to deconstruct this as she plays, devolving the sounds into noise and grinding emotion." --Boomkat
"... while there's quite a lot of far-flung jazz chops converging all at once, the whole thing is clothed in a shroud of overdriven distortion and roomy fuzz. It's hard to tell who's kicking whose ass here, but my guess is that these two both walked away from the session bruised and battered in the best way possible. Love Taps? Nay -- these are love wallops, Mendoza's sharp harmonic angles and pummeling rhythm up against Tamburro's storm of cymbals... Mendoza's Weird Forest release was an example of how the guitar beat all odds to rule 2012 with extreme prejudice." --Tiny Mix Tapes
"While most songs follow the familiar head-solo-head jazz structure, the album feels closer to a marriage of free jazz and metal. Every song features a heavy, glorious riff serving as a springboard for Mendoza's dazzling guitar pyrotechnics. Tamburro's drums provide much of the ecstatic energy, somehow propelling the songs forward without losing the beat and going completely free. The end result is a wild, exhilarating ride that's sure to appeal to music fans of all stripes." --Weird Forest
"Their sound sculptures seem heavily labored over like a complicated detail painting or a score to a black-and-white film, with boatloads of dynamic shifts and tangents to hang the ear on... A poetic convergence of solo guitar and devil-daring drums?" --The Gumshoe Grove
"Jesus, this is some proper acid-fried shit we got here featuring the frisky drummer from The Dead Science and this proper wild guitar-shredding lassie. The opening stunted weirdo title track does not prepare you for the deranged breakdown/vortex of insanity that is the subsequent 'First Time Shapeshifter'. Basically like lurching freak-out cyclo-metal, Beefheartian free jazz and bent psych(opath)edelic guitar frenzy melded together into one sick rampage, nothing like it around at the moment but it's scary, like Henry Cow and Butthole Surfers at a pig fucking contest in some dark woods...C'mere little piggy, no come back...no that's the guitar squealing ma!
It's a varied listen is this six-tracker, there's shades of weird dusty blues, Chris Corsano-esque mayhem, Stooges dirt and a right brooding atmosphere throughout, all this laced with real freewheeling lysergic mischief and played with the gleeful adventure of improvising spirits. 'Quit Your Unnatural Ways' is a blast, it reeks of total loose-limbed, bloody minded conviction! If you want a primal, invigorating head-trip this week look no further!"
"... sophisticated chord movement and voicings. Ava plays with a sense of wonder, a sort of illusory naiveté, using a gritty-sounding, amplified Gibson ES125, exaggerating bends and ripping through runs with abandon. This dichotomy between sophistication and sense of wonder is in full bloom on her new solo guitar album, Shadow Stories.
... Ava takes on various country and blues staples, arranging them in a charismatic manner that mimics her playing technique. A rendition of Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Waltz” opens the album, and contains one of its wonderfully nutty runs (at 1:12 and repeated at 4:16, if you have access to the track) as well as a lively ad-libbed passage between refrains... I certainly hope Shadow Stories gets the attention it deserves, and look forward to the next solo offering by this very talented guitarist."
-- David Leicht, Work and Worry
"Just a gal and her guitar--or rather, a gal's guitar. Mendoza lets her fingers do the talking, and she picks and slashes her way around standards, country, the blues and whatever else she feels like taking a swipe at.
But this is no out-of-control, wild woman album. Mendoza plays these songs. She makes them sing. Her technique is impeccable, but her playing is astonishingly expressive. She doesn't just bend blue notes; she wads them up into a ball and throws them up against a wall.
Almost all instrumental guitar albums screw things up by adding a backing band. Some guitarists even think they can sing (ye gods!). Mendoza knows what she does well, which is tell stories with her guitar. Check that. Mendoza knows what she does better than almost anyone else on the planet, which is tell stories with her guitar.
From the first note, it's obvious that this album is the product of a master. Skill, taste and expression are all off the charts. If you don't weep while listening to this, then you have no soul."
-- Aiding & Abetting, Issue 317
"Shadow Stories (RSPT037) by Ava Mendoza turns out... to be a crackling disc of superlative instrumental guitar work by this consummate musician from Oakland in California. She’s worked on avant-garde and improv projects (and also does electronic music), but this delightful record is a collection of fairly straight-ahead blues, country and jazz tunes played with such conviction, fire and infectious passion that you’ll be shivering with pleasure for its duration. Apparently it’s equally thrilling to watch her perform live (her body and hands twitch like jumping beans), and that energy translates directly onto the disc here thanks to the vivid recording quality courtesy of engineer The Norman Conquest. Back in the day, I think she would have been showcased on a rootsy label like Rounder Records or Arhoolie, but here she be on this outre experimental label cooking up a storm with her six strings and her warm, old-fashioned hollow-bodied wooden guitar. American traditional guitar craft at its finest! Total recommendation for this corking record from me, but then I’m also a fan of Sam Chatmon, Roy Smeck and Joseph Spence."
-- Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector
"Bay Area music fans who know guitarist Ava Mendoza from the punk attack of Mute Socialite, from her noisy guitar experiments on compilations like Women Take Back the Noise, from her noisy work with Weasel Walter — is going to be surprised to hear a straight-up reading of “The Tennessee Waltz” and “I’m So Glad” opening this album. I was.
So, the jazz references in interviews and bios turn out to be for real, and not too distant from what Mendoza’s still into. “The Tennessee Waltz” gets into some unconventional ad-libbing but sticks to its country/blues mood, with a bright and rough-edged guitar sound that evokes a stage in a dusty bar graced with long afternoon shadows.
And you know what? That’s how the whole first half of the album goes!
Yes, this dark gray package that I was taking for a noisefest turns out to be a celebration of roots guitar in a western-swing style.
But only at first, because if you’re on the Resipiscent label, home to guys like this, the noise is sure to come. “The Furious Harpy” lists into some relaxing, distorted ambiance — backwards notes, guitar tones sampled into bouncing-pebble tapping — that gradually turns dark and steely, with stomping guitar from a very non-jazz place. It’s a 12-minute turning point.
That sets us up for two more unsettling tracks. “Penumbra: The Age of Almost Living” returns to a regular musical structure, but now it’s dark, slow, and slightly twisted, like evil biker music. “In My Dreams” puts fragments of guitar melody into an echoey, plinky environment, a dream that’s not a nightmare but still not quite right.
Then, abruptly, the album switches back to friendly jazz for its closing tracks. “Goodnight Irene” gets a particularly nice, expansive treatment.
Getting back to the subject of Mendoza’s jazz/swing playing — it’s terrific. “Shadowtrapping” is upbeat, combining some old-timey tricks with newer improvising ideas that break the mold but not the mood. With a second overdubbed guitar laying down the rhythm, Mendoza shows off some playfully fancy lead lines. “Kiss of Fire” has a darker mood, like an ancestor of rockabilly, but the same snappy jazz rhythm and great creative soloing. They’re tracks you can really sink your teeth into.
Mendoza gets to show multiple sides of her personality on this album. It’s a release to be proud of.
-- Memory Select: Avant-jazz Radio
"... the songs here are perfect for sitting on the front porch on a nice warm day and enjoying a cold beer.
If that was all Shadow Stories was though, I wouldn’t be reviewing it here. After about 20 minutes of such laid-back songs “The Furious Harpy Who Followed Me Everywhere” kicks in and begins with the same go lucky guitar riffage that can be heard in the rest of the album. Within 5 minutes though it has worked itself up to a shimmering texture of warbling guitar strings, harmonic droning feedback, and delayed bits and pieces sparkling on the edges. By the 8 minute mark the change in atmosphere is more than noticeable and quite welcome. Following this are two more tracks along the same lines “Penumbra: The Age Of Almost Living” and “In My Dreams.” These tracks continue to evolve, sometimes subtly working themselves into shadows of the more bluesy melodies but in a much stranger state. Like hazy drunken memories returning after a hung over recollection.
And then, like a smack in the face, it’s all over. “Goodnight, Irene” is back to the guitar jams. There is quite a contrast between these two styles of tracks, but somehow Mendoza still manages to make them fit. Aurally, they stick out like a sore thumb but conceptually they bring Mendoza’s intentions to a much deeper place.
The only other artist I’m reminded of by Mendoza’s music is that of Jack Rose, though this is quite different. Less complex, less otherworldly, but a similar vibe. Sometimes the guitar riffs get a little flashier than they need to be but there’s never a time when I outright cringed. Mendoza manages to keep her hands from showing off and focuses on the melodies and elaborations instead.
Not something I’d normally listen to, but good for certain occasions. Recommended for guitarists who like to hear some laid-back guitar work, people who enjoy music with a bluesy or Hawaiian vibe."
-- Existence Establishment
" Then there’s Ava Mendoza’s “Redwood Regional Park Blues: Between Hay and Grass.” Overdubbing with slightly-dirty-toned jazz box electric guitars, Mendoza unfurls a swing/blues epic of sometimes smooth, sometimes stuttering line and melody. In its blues-based expressionism and bravely exploratory, always-changing phrasing, it suggests something like the spirit of Lonnie Johnson finding voice in some surprising new ideas.
-- Dusted Magazine
"... while most players here go it alone, Ava Mendoza on her “Redwood Regional Park Blues: Between Hay And Grass” not only works an amplified guitar, but engages a bit of sloppy gypsy swing that sits at the apex of nascent rock and roll and country. The fluidity with which she moves between her assembled ensemble doesn’t hint at the noisier work she sometimes prefers, but does explicate an almost unwieldy amount of talent."
-- Folk Music Talk
" ...last but in no ways least ava mendoza (yes an actual xx chromosome among xy dominated musical dna). the highlight of the compilation for me. proffering a lilting, lolloping, djazzy, django flecked swirl of grasping blues. like an unloved balloon falling high into the sky, string and ribbon trailing twirling desperately towards the cold earth, lifting ever higher knowing that only exquisite doom awaits… or maybe that’s just me."
-- Earz Mag
Special mention... to Ava Mendoza... standing out with an electric, jazzy skip with overtones of Django Reinhardt.
-- Uncut: Music and Movies with Something to Say
"... Ava Mendoza's “Redwood Regional Park Blues: Between Hay & Grass” is paradoxically the folksiest creation, the most spontaneous and free-wheeling, yet the only one that's double-tracked. It’s a dazzling conclusion to a thoroughly entrancing collection..."
-- Sound Fix Record Store
"The headlining quartet featured Scott Amendola (Nels Cline, Charlie Hunter) on drums, Thomas Dimuzio (more adventurous, noise-minded projects than even could be hinted at here) on keyboards, Jon Evans (Tori Amos) on bass, and Ava Mendoza (Mute Socialite) on guitar. Together they summoned up a mix of Discipline-era King Crimson, and more broadly the fusion bands that flourished as various individuals left various “electric-era” bands of the late trumpeter Miles Davis and ventured down various different paths. Mendoza in particular mixed Crimson leader Robert Fripp’s looping and arcane scales with Adrian Belew’s penchants for backward effects and squawking seagull sounds.
At times I found myself thinking of MVVP, the New Orleans supergroup consisting of Stanton Moore, Johnny Vidacovich, Rich Vogel, and George Porter, though Amendola and company were less interested in trance-like communal music-making, and more in simultaneous individual soloing that allowed for stark, illuminating contrasts."
--Marc Weidenbaum, Disquiet Killing Prog: Amendola, Dimuzio, Evans, Mendoza & Dominique Leone
"Ava Mendoza's haunting guitar riffs... set the mood for a tale of man at war with the gods, a man doomed to murder his father and marry his mother."
--Karen D'Souza, Mercury News on the soundtrack for Oedipus El Rey at the Magic Theater in SF
"Ava Mendoza... who uncoiled angular, No Wave-inspired, barbed wire riffs with Mute Socialite..."
--John Graham, SF WEEKLY
"Especially Doublespeak plays an intense free-rock for electric guitar, drums and electronics. Great unit and Ava Mendoza surely is a name to watch."
-- Vital Weekly #461 Week 6
"The Bay-area's Ava Mendoza is a well-established improvisor, composer and electronicist. This one is an aggressive and glitchy affair that was far noisier than I had expected. A Moog synthesizer gets a brutal run-through with no remorse but much to the delight of these ears...
... Ava Mendoza returns for a minute and a half of impeccable electronic music. Stylistically, it bears an uncanny resemblance to classic musique concret, although I'm not sure if any acoustic sources are actually employed. I'd love to play this for someone in a blindfold test and have them place it historically. Perhaps being the best piece in this entire collection, I mean that as a compliment."
-- Heathen Harvest on Women Take Back the Noise compilation, 2/1/08
"Featuring violent, machine-shop baritone guitar from Ava Mendoza, song after song boils industrial rock back to its most basic elements. Think early Blonde Redhead playing hammers on anvils, feedback and groove. And music this alive on record is destined to be even better live."
-- Nate Carson, Willamette Week
"Mute Socialite... draw freely from free-jazz, improv, metal, and noise to create pounding and unorthodox sonic vignettes that are impressive for their velocity as well as their technical dexterity... the songs are engaging and controlled (even when it doesn't necessarily sound that way), and there's nothing fey or abstract about their demanding sonic wallop. This is an experimental / free-jazz album that hardcore metalheads can appreciate (or should that be the other way around?), with plenty of dynamics and surprising changes in direction to go with the hyperkinetic drumming, machine-gun riffing, and howling guitar excess."
-- The One True Dead Angel
"Rapid-fire, agile pieces, a slashing noisy attack with thickly dissonant chords. A sense of abandon but played with precision. Solid, crisp rhythms and speedy riffs -- so you can rock out *and* enjoy your brutal harsh noise all at once...The skeleton of prog's multifaceted writing, the blood of 150-degree speed metal, the overcaffeinated nerves of well executed punk rock."
-- Craig Matsumoto, KZSU Zookeeper