For his latest album Daniel Bachman has embraced space – space between notes with runs that amble rather than ramble, outdoor space via field recordings and headspace through some of his most challenging and experimental sides yet. His last album embraced an Appalachian folksiness, pock-marked by some clangorous diversions that kept it from becoming an exercise in gazing through the wrinkles of the past. While Bachman’s always been reverent of the past, he’s never been tied down by it. As he lays into The Morning Star, though, he’s torn tradition apart and glued it back together in his own vision.
For an album created by one of the great technical talents of our age, there’s a surprising shift from flashy fingerwork here to a much larger emphasis on environment and tone. Through a series of longform drones, flickering and sinister vocal samples and meditative plucks, Bachman drives the album with an air of contemplation. The Morning Star absorbs and ingests the chaos of modern matters and slows them down, picks them over with the eye of a patient woodcarver and sends out the artist’s interpretation – his rough edges and jagged hand adding a craggy character in purposeful acts of degradation.
The album is not eclipsed in total darkness, the nervously hopeful “Song for the Setting Sun III” gives a slight break in Bachman’s cloudbank compositions, but overall, it’s one of Bachman’s darkest works to date. It’s also probably one of his most accomplished. From Fahey to Richard Bishop, there are those who have infused fingerpicked folk with an experimentation that’s palpable and potent. In fact, this might just be Bachman’s America, its just that his own America has slipped its axis quite a bit from where Fahey found it. If you’re looking for lush technicality that’s born to sooth, sway towards the excellent album from Nathan Salsburg, also out this month. If you’re ready to pull the strings until they break the skin and burn the bone, Bachman’s your man.
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