Posts Tagged ‘Instrumental Guitar’

William Tyler

While there are dozens of new releases, one off tracks, and compilations to dig through for the No Fee days, sometimes a truly amazing release wafts through the buzz of emails and twitter notifications. I’m prone to checking out anything by William Tyler, especially after last year’s stunner on Merge and the haunting First Cow soundtrack, but I wasn’t expecting another tender offering from him so soon. Recorded in isolation and partly with Scott Hirsch, the EP is based on loss, death, and impermanence. The songs here aren’t precious, but rather unflinching in their somber reflection of bearing witness to death, holding a mirror to grim reality and marking out the measure of it all. Tyler was inspired by the medieval concept of vanitias — juxtaposing death with the impermanence of eartly things, a theme that resonated through a culture threaded with death as a daily reality. It lands as prescient today as it might have then.

The EP sets itself apart from his recent works, turning away from the lighthearted, yet bittersweet ramble of Goes West but falling just shy of the stark landscapes of First Cow. Drones seem to play a bigger part, and the midsection numbness of “Slow Night’s Static,” in particular marks a haunted departure from his usual sound. The works here show Tyler’s prowess, but more so his restraint and it’s a lovely work to bear witness with us all.





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Andrew Tuttle

Sorely missing from the pages of RSTB has been any mention of Andrew Tuttle. That’s on me. Several albums deep at this point, he’s racked up stage time with Ryley Walker, Steve Gunn, Matmos, Julia Holter, and Daniel Bachman. His latest for Room 40 is a pastoral source of rejuvenation in parched times. Centering around his banjo and guitar work, the record enters a lot of the same eddies as Nathan Salsburg, a fellow picker who’s music tends not to overwhelm with flash, but who instead builds a world out of gently burbling patience and calm. Make no mistake, both have skill to spare, but knowing that there’s more to gain in shading and shifting tones is a particularly lovely persuasion within the world of fingerpicked guitar. Tuttle lets notes hang in the air and dissipate. Banjos waver on the winds, reverberated guitar soaks into the skin and underneath he sketches field recordings with a fine brush.

Cut through with an outdoor ambiance, and a communal backporch air, the record is incredibly unfussed at first blush. The stitches on the songs are barely visible, owing much to Tuttle’s ability to make his compositions feel like they might have been improvisations, but there’s more of a unified thread here than he first lets on. Tuttle plays like a quilter, weaving picture patterns that come into focus the further one backs away from the record. There’s a natural awe to the album, that’s expressed between the patient notes that Andrew and his collaborators concoct. Those collaborators play no small part in shaping Alexandra as well. The indelible color of Chuck Johnson’s pedal steel has been a part of many great 2020 LPs and he lends it to a couple of tracks here, as well as acting as producer for the record. Tony Dupe (Saddleback), Sarah Spencer (Blank Realm), Gwenifer Raymond (Tompkins Square), Joel Saunders (Spirit Bunny) and Joe Saxby (These Guy) also find their way into the ranks, fleshing out the tessellated universe that Tuttle constructs across these nine songs. 2020 has become a year for exploring quietude in deeper dimensions, and to that end, Alexandra is a welcome portal to a stiller set of sounds.




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Ezra Feinberg – “Acquainted With The Night”

Just in time to cool off the angst of the year, the new album from Ezra Feinberg (Citay) comes to quench the thirst for something serene. Built on a circular guitar line, and bathed in the cool blue waters of synths that ripple like a requiem for an unworried life, opener “Acquainted With the Night” sinks below the soul’s horizon on the last amber hues of sunset. After the final folding of Citay, Feinberg has spent time traversing the ethereal with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Arp. His close collaboration with Jonas Reinhardt from Arp is paid back on Recumbent Speech with synth contributions and he taps quite a few longtime compatriots with input from John McEntire (Tortoise), Chuck Johnson, Diego Gonzalez (Citay, The Dry Spells), April Hayley (The Dry Spells) making its way onto the album. I’ve long been a fan of Feinberg’s work with Citay and this feels like both a continuation of tone and exploration of new directions from the artist. Some days we all need a balm, and this is just what the mid-year stretch called for. The album is out June 26th. Mark your calendars.




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Lake Mary & The Ranch Family Band

“Sun Dogs” is a gorgeous introduction to Chaz Prymek’s new record under the Lake Mary umbrella. On November 15th he’ll release Sun Dogs an aching, expansive exploration of sun-baked and windswept guitar ramble that evokes the winding wooded paths of the Mountain States. Full Spctrum graces us all with the nearly ten-minute title track today in anticipation of the record’s release and it’s a sun seeker that melts into the horizon before it ropes in a bit of motorik pulse in its final minutes. You’re not likely to hear anything this refreshing and bittersweet today, so lay back and enjoy. Record is limited to 300.




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Steven R. Smith

The new LP from Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Passerine, Ulaan Khol, Ulaan Markhor, Hala Strana) is another darkened, weather-worn take on instrumental guitar. The artist has an enviable catalog among his many monikers and each comes with its own shading — where Ulaan Markhor sweats cinders from the strings, and Ulaan Passerine is laid back in the heather of psych-folk, Smith’s works under his own name tend to nip at darkness and light. A Sketchbook of Endings, while packaging his songs in a more digestible short format, retains the sense of deep furrowed psychedelia, burnt through with sage and soot. There’s a familiar fuzzed growl on the guitar, a desert air of doom in places, and the tentative hope of relief in others.

Smith’s works have long evoked a sense of loss and that sense comes striding through in the bleakest parts of Sketchbook. When Smith plays, the walls crumble into dust, but patterns of hope a scattered through that dust like apocalyptic tea leaves. Its up to us, the listener, to parse and parcel the bittersweet flecks that are strewn among the parched fuzz and solar scorched landscapes of his work. When his guitars build to a boil, the body is burnt, exfoliated, shed like a second skin. Spend enough time around the Celsius squelch of Smith’s output and its impossible not to emerge changed. That transformation definitely applies to Sketchbook. Fans of any of Smith’s output will find lots to love here, but any guitar disciple looking to find enlightenment should take some time with Smith’s catalog. This isn’t such a bad place to start either.



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Padang Food Tigers

Its been a few long years since London duo Padang Food Tigers’ last outing, the sorely underrated album Bumblin’ Creed on Northern Spy in 2016, but they’re wafting back into view with a new record for Texan enclave Blue Hole Recordings. As ever, the works of PFT are hushed and delicate, built on their patient acoustic assemblages and the soft lap of field recordings nipping at the elbows of each track. Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis are steeped in the traditions of Takoma, while showing equal reverence for the Jewelled Antler Collective’s crumbling vision of four track folk. The songs ache with life, cracking awake, wincing and weaving through the background buzz of life until the gorgeous moments peek through. For the rushed and ragged, these moments are likely lost. No time to wait through full minutes of hiss and hum, the harried listener would miss out on the slow opening of Padang’s songs. They lie in wait, as if so connected to the fragility of nature that they show themselves only to the gentle warming of the sun’s rays.

The band blends the wisdom of predecessors like Scott Tuma, Steven R. Smith, Kemialliset Ystävät, and the Blithe Sons into a record that’s spun like silk. It feels like even the gentlest nudge might upset these songs but breathing in the the rarified air around them bolsters the spirit and reaffirms the rightness of life. Each of the duo’s songs works like a vignette of bittersweet simplicity brought to sparkling life—like the whole-hearted whims of children presented in innocence but laid heavy with the promise of age, angst, and the alchemical loss of that whimsy. There’s sadness here, but also joy and in many moments they’re one and the same. Much of the befuddlingly titled Wake Up, Mr. Pancake feels like smiling and crying all at once—a heart breaking and mending on an endless loop, but the pair pull it off like the most accomplished aural artists. They paint delicate strokes on a complimentary field, but finding joy among the ridges and textures is endlessly engrossing. The album was worth the wait, but don’t let it slip by. This one won’t kick up a lot of dust, but once found it doesn’t let go.




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Buck Curran – “War Behind The Sun”

Guitarist Buck Curran last landed here with his shadowy Morning Haikus, Afternoon Ragas LP in 2018 and he’s back with a renewed darkness on “War Behind The Sun.” With a parched approach the track spreads like the doom sprawl of war across the horizon, an all-consuming ache that can neither be reckoned with or ignored. The track takes its influence from Raag Marva, a Hindustani raag that represents sunset and ushers in a feeling of anxiety and solemn expectation. Those feelings are translated well by Curran, turning the raag into a high-plains exorcism of light and goodness as it sweeps through the speakers. The track is released in advance of Curran’s upcoming album Delights & Dangers of Ambiguity coming in June on Obsolete Recordings.

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Elkhorn

While they’ve been fixtures in the NY live scene for a while yet, and have been racking up accolades with releases on Eiderdown, Debacle, and Beyond Beyond is Beyond, this is undoubtedly the year that Elkhorn makes an indelible impact on the psychedelic spectrum. With the release of a tandem pair of albums for Feeding Tube, the duo gives two distinct visions of their doom-slicked folk fallout. On Elk Jam, the band functions as a proper four-piece with acclaimed guitarist Willie Lane and drummer Ryan Jewell giving Drew Gardner and Jesse Sheppard an improvisational backdrop to work against. This LP locks the players into a shaggy trip that weaves an even denser tangle of guitars than the duo usually finds themselves caught in and knocks their rippled runs against Jewell’s expert anchor. It’s an excellent stab at the Six Organs/P.G. Six/Rangda school of psych-folk freeform that would set them apart in any year, but they don’t let things hang on Elk Jam alone.

That leaves Sun Cycle, the dark jewel of the band’s catalog. Opening cold and frost-bitten with the slow creep of “Altun Ha,” the album plunges the band into the dark corners of psych-folk, bubbling under the skin with a high-plains harrow. There’s a heavier sense of danger in the veins of Sun Cycle, feeling like the soundtrack to a dystopic Western, where the stakes are high and hardly anyone’s walking off into the sunset alive. Lane and Jewell are still here, but they’re less foils for Elkhorn than hues in their palette, creating deep oil paint scars of cracked black and saturated blue underneath the brilliant amber runs of Sheppard’s twelve string and Gardner’s electric purple drips of psychedelic sorrow.

To say there hasn’t been an LP of instrumental intensity on this level in quite a few years is no hasty statement. Wiliam Tyler’s coming close this year, but Elkhorn are topping the mount. As a pair of LPs, there aren’t too many instances of someone stormbringing this hard with quality equaling quantity. Sun Cycle in particular knocks the band into the ranks of Rose, Chasney, and the brothers Bishop. If you’ve been holding out for an essential release in the first half of 2019, look no further, this should be turntable bound and locked down for the next couple of months of your life. Let its pain become yours, its briefer moments of joy salve the soul and its sparkling strings ease the mind.



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Chris Forsyth

On his last outing, I’d noted that Chris Forsyth was pushing for ecstasy and coming damn close, and it seems that he’s gone ahead and finally touched the nerve on his ambitious double LP for No Quarter. All Time Present is a bigger, looser, sandier, and more hypnotic version of what Forsyth has become known for. Yanking the bit out of the teeth of Crazy Horse, he’s hitched it to a more cosmic conveyance this time around. The album finds its footing in the air-lock licks of ‘80s Robert Quine, the brittle balance of Michio Kurihara, and the desert playa chug of Tuareg players lost in deep in the trance of an unknown groove.

The album uses its considerable length as sky-high canvas, letting more than a few songs saunter up past the nine minute marker, but there’s never a sense that a note is dipped in indulgence. Four sides slip by in a fever dream daze that’s soaked in sweat and writhing in the wraps of psychedelia, folk, krautrock, and free jazz. Forsyth weaves a stylistic quilt that refines and nudges forward notions of the instrumental guitar album, never bogging down into pieces that feel like tessellations of the same idea, but instead locking together his disparate visions into a gnarled puzzle that tears open the sky with the lash of strings and cinder.

Though it would be a disservice to Chris’ own vocal contribution on “Mystic Mountain,” which he pulls off with a more tender touch than in the past, to let this off as simply an instrumental album. Similarly, the mirage manifestations of Rosalie Middleman are a highlight as she anchors the transcendental tangle of “Dream Song” to this plane. She’s not the only ringer in the ranks either. Forsyth enlists drummer Ryan Jewell (who’s seemingly everywhere this year) and Jeff Ziegler alongside members of his Solar Motel Band. They seed the album with all manner of musical minutia, culminating in the tower trance of “Techno Top,” a Neu/Rother inspired piece that’s well beyond the pale of what Forsyth had been tackling on earlier albums. He’s already proven it to be a crusher in the live setting, and it closes off the album in perfect pulsations. Forsyth has consistently proven to be a guitarist that transcends the tags associated with merely wrangling strings. On All Time Present he’s a songwriter shaping air into harmonious bursts of pain, joy, and danger and making it all sound vital.



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Elkhorn – “Song of the Son”

I’ve already shared a look into Elkhorn’s gorgeous, Sun Cycle, but one more couldn’t hurt, right? The duo has another simple, yet perfectly spare video of them live in the room, this time playing “Song of the Son,” with Eric Silver and Josh Johnson capturing the performance. This time there’s less of the cinder and smoke than pervades “To See Darkness,” revealing the pair’s ability to bottle joy into nearly nine minutes of pastoral perfection. The lighter mood by no means lessens the intricate complexity of the pair’s playing – a threaded web of strings that comes off effortless but is as dense and delicate as any natural wonder. The track come from their soon to be released double set – Sun Cycle, which sees them playing as a duo, and Elk Jam, which works as a quartet with Ryan Jewell and Willie Lane. Both are out on Feeding Tube next week.



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