Posts Tagged ‘Acoustic’

Donald Miller – “The Man In The Well”

While Miller might be known more for his reality shifting psychedelics in Borbetomagus, on his latest LP he’s stripped all the way back, delivering a suite of 12-string rambles that throw the Takoma school through a feverish wind. There’s a blues base in “The Man In The Well,” but Miller isn’t content to simply lean on virtuosity and let the ripple ease into the the banks of the river. His works bend and scrape at the traditions that he so clearly loves, with tracks on the upcoming Transgression!!! dedicated to Davey Williams, Jack Rose, and intriguingly enough Squeaky Frome alongside a cover of Charlie Patton. The new LP finds a home with acoustic haven VDSQ and its rapped in a rather striking cover from SEEN studios, which only adds to the charms. The LP finds its way out February 5th.



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Elkhorn

The second installment of Elkhorn’s snowed-in sessions from last year strips away the electricity and effects, but with the cords cut the session only delves further into their dark night of the soul. Acoustic Sessions conjures up a relaxed vision of something previously posed in the electric setting, but here its no retread, but a tap into their similar apocalyptic folk vision, kicking at the dust bowl barrens just after the amps have gone dry. Working repetition and stark minimalism into a psychedelic experience that puts the echoplex away and turns up the inner turmoil, the Acoustic Storm Sessions create something of a haunted introspection that cycles ‘round and around in the brain with the three players pushing their stringwork through meditative moments that tapped isolation before it was cool.

Passages feel like they come from several planes of sound at once, pulling gently for attention before another player’s fingers rack the focus back. The set is split into two side-long improvisations, with the first more biting than the second. They stir up the ash and bone with side-A, letting the wounds heal a bit with the healing of Side-B. That second side wafts into a tender territory — resolute, exhausted, mindful of the flow of the aural conversation the guitars share. The strings find tension and twist on the record, but just as often they find a sort of solace solace over the winding trip laid bare here. This is one of those releases that’s stunning for the fact that it wasn’t even the focus of the sessions. This is the second wave, but its no less accomplished than the first — a bonus session that’s hardly cutting room worthy.




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William Tyler

For Goes West William Tyler presents the clearest vision for his Cosmic Country yet. He’s taken a stab in the past and begun to build the mythology, but it’s here that he’s found a way to capture just how the sun dips low on the horizon. Though they appear on the album, Tyler himself doesn’t pick up the electric guitar, focusing solely on the fluid ramble of the acoustic strings to evoke the endless expanse of the American West. He does so with the touch of a craftsman. Within the wilds of fingerpicked guitar there are many guises – the virtuoso, the devout (ragas), the folk hero, the convert – but Tyler approaches picking with a storyteller’s grace. Without so much as a cough the album lays out emotional tales that seem universal – heart swells and salt flats rung through with the pluck of warm strings.

Though he’s clearly quite adept, Tyler steers clear of the virtuoso palette. He’s not working to stun listeners into submission, but rather to lull them into bliss. The album is a warm companion, a sense memory, a feeling of loss just off the tip of the tongue. There are moments that shudder to life like someone just stepped on your grave, but left a flower in passing. There’s something about the record that seems to slow time entirely, rolling by with the white line hypnotism of a desert highway, letting the scenery unfold in a panorama that’s too big to hold onto from a seat not big enough to stretch your legs. In that way its both too big to fathom and so intimately close that Tyler’s strings wrap around you and hold you safe like a seatbelt.

The pace of modern life is regrettably rushed, if it’s not necessarily always frantic, it’s at least overwhelming in its grab for our attentions. Goes West is a magnetic pull away from that feeling. Even when the record is on in the background it slows the listener down and adds a few more colors to the day. With this Tyler has made a statement about slow living, staring just a touch longer, and letting the ache of life burrow in a little deeper.



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Six Organs Of Admittance – “Adoration Song”

Seems a week can’t go by that I’m not singing some praises on the new Six Organs LP, but seeing how it’s one of Ben’s best, that doesn’t feel excessive. For “Adoration Song,” one of the stripped back and subtle cuts on the album, Chasny has paired a clip by Elisa Ambrogio full of dark corners, beautiful vistas and psychedelic static. Her visuals add a touch of lovely trippiness to the song’s smoldering delivery. If, for some god forsaken reason you’ve neglected to pick up a copy of this one, rectify that choice now. It’s definitely creeping up my list of 2017’s best.



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Six Organs Of Admittance

Following on the heels of Ben Chasny’s experimental Rubik, Hexadic, he returns to the smokey, raw emotion of records like like School of the Flower or The Sun Awakens. The album, for the most part, steers its way shy of the guitar explosions that collided Six Organs with elements of Comets on Fire and instead focuses on the soft touch and texture of Chasny’s songcraft. On those two particular records, he honed the beauty in his work, sanded the raw edges and focused the froth of emotion through the tangle of strings and his own cedar smoke drawl. The next phase would bring fire, and while the fire was satisfying, there’s something inherently interesting about calm laced with the haunt of pain. That element has returned with eperience on Burning The Threshold.

Chasny’s voice is high and present in the mix, putting the focus on the man, rather than any hint of din rising around him. The only noise seeping through on many songs is the light flutter of tape hiss that wraps the songs in a Kodachrome weather of age. Largely, it’s just Ben and his guitar, recorded cavernous and enveloping, as if the listener is observing from inside the instrument itself. As the record builds to a peak, he strides outside of the lone troubadour mode for the standout, “Taken By Ascent,” which acts as a single focal point for the full release of the tensions bubbling throughout the album. Where every other track is building and aching, “Ascent” is the moment when there’s a flash of menace in the eyes, a wounded bristling that turns dangerous but rides the rise into a tense bout of prog-laced psych without exploding into noise.

After the track simmers to a close the album returns to the lonesome and even wistful modes of the closing numbers, picking up some of the same solemnity of that preceded the row on “Ascent.” There are no other glimmers of that tension on the album, but collected as an arc, it plays well as an argument for albums in a renewed age of singles. The songs are all inherently interesting apart, but when stacked into the tableau that Chasny has assembled, they create something bigger than any of the pieces. Six Organs has a deep catalog, but this easily stands out as a high water mark in a lifetime littered with gems.




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Six Organs Of Admittance – “Taken By Ascent”

Taking a break from two albums of Hexadic improvisations (Chasny’s own system of complex chaos), Six Organs is back to its smoke and smolder roots with a new album, Burning The Threshold, due out next year. The first taste comes in the form of the ominous album centerpiece “Taken By Ascent,” a rolling bit of murderous blues that seems to hearken back to Chasny’s best guitar work, while adding a whiff of prog’s smoke rings via the synths provided by Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave). The support staff on this one seems to be cherry picking from some great complimentary sources, alongside Crain, Haley Fohr (Circuit Des Yeux) joins for some backup vocals and longtime collaborator Chris Corsano is back on drums. While I loved the Hexadic experiments, its awesome to hear Chasny storming down his own brand of psychedelic stringwork on this one. Any year that’s got a Six Organs release on the way is looking up.



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Tony Molina – Confront The Truth

Tony Molina is the master of brevity. He’s got a jingle wringer’s knack for finding the pearl at the center of a song and leaving you with a nagging urge to repeat it over and over in your head like the chorus that never materializes. In that regard, he’s perfectly suited to the short format of the 7″, a medium that leaves only enough room for most to squeeze on a song or three, but for Molina provides an EP’s worth of space to spare. He uses that space wisely on Confront The Truth shaking off most of his power pop pedigree and going deep into the bittersweet soul inhabited by Elliott Smith and ’60s rainmakers like The Pretty Things or The Zombies. He dives into the EP with a scant introduction before letting the Autumnal vibes wash over the listener in hues of deep gold and crimson.

He adopts the tearful eyes and ennui laden soul with an almost astounding ease, considering his more elastic rock roots. These songs get in quick and burrow under the skin, digging at the sighing heart of pretty much any listener. Its hard, as usual with Tony, not to wish there were more of each track, but alas, that’s not his way. Molina knows just when to resolve a song and fade out of view, leaving a whiff of sadness and smeared eyeliner on the air. The hope with any great EP is that there’s perhaps more to come, but knowing Molina, it’ll either be another seismic shift or, as usual just end up leaving us wanting even more the second its done.


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Steve Gunn

First time I heard Steve Gunn was back in 2007 on a small label called Onomoto, known for acts like Taiga Remains and Ghosting. Gunn was pulling down ragged fingerpicked odes that hung in the air like frost. The sound quality was scratchy but the talent was clear under the hiss. Its been years since those days and ever since the second phase of Gunn’s life rolled down with 2013’s Time Off he’s been marked for greatness, steadily straightening the rumpled blazer sound that he’s stepped into. Eyes On The Lines is Gunn fully formed, running at peak but still never feeling flashy about it. The man can play. If you need any proof, plunk down a copy of Seasonal Hire, his collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers. That ought to set you straight. But even with the talent in tow, it’s the way he wields that makes him unique. Most of his songs tend to capture the feeling of the highway stretching endlessly on the horizon; sauntering in a way that clips by like the steady pace of pines out the rolled window. In this respect his solos never blister, they feel like the pent up relief of a good stretch when the car stops. They’re air in the lungs and feet on the ground.

Eyes On The Lines deploys those moments of clarity in ample doses but the surrounding build and fade is hardly shabby either. Sure its a more accessible and, dare say, mature record from Steve, but he’s finding a way to show age in style. The country touches whisper in at the edges, a bend of twang here and a dusted dose of strum running its way under the chorus. He’s still got some of his ragged roots showing though, there’s certainly a warble of psych that curls in with the rest of the smoke filling up the rooms of this record. In the end though, its all those touches coming together to make a perfect montage of diner coffees, halogen lights flickering over gas pumps, center lines and steel girders; the air peppered with throat dust and the cold freshness of leaves on the air. That’s the heart of Eyes On The Lines, that and the itch of needing to get moving, even when it feels good to stretch.

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