Posts Tagged ‘Instrumental’

Waterless Hills

Manchester’s Waterless Hills lay an absolute gem on us, quietly eking out an eerily calm eddy of prog from under the scarred English skies. The group, which features previous Feeding Tube alum C Joynes on guitar and Dan Bridgeood-Hill on violin (Irma Vep, Charles Hayward), trades in a dark strain of folk that wanders the streets at dusk and wanders states of reality after that sun finally sets. There’s an outworld quality to the songs of The Great Mountain, and as much as that title conjures up visions of Jodorowsky’s nightmare wonders, the band makes good on them with aural imagery that’s as tarnished by ash, sand, and soil as his films. The record is dried by the sun — scorched, leathered, and laid bare — and in many moments that simmers from the speakers there’s a feeling of palpable sweat seeping through the songs. It’s not constant, though, there’s the respite of dusk and the cool ripples of clean water tumbling through natural cut rock in the bones here as well.

The guitars chime and bend, roll and ramble. The drums crash and skitter with a malevolent force and all the while that violin drags us to our feet time and time again to take the journey to the mountain on the mantle. The journey is the through line and we, as listeners, arrive changed certainly, but not exhausted. Instead there’s an elation, an unplaceable euphoria humming through the invisible wires of Waterless Hills’ offering to the endless horizon. Aside from a lone lathe cut sourced from the same sessions this is the band’s only output, but here’s hoping its not the last. The record finds its home here in the states on Feeding Tube and abroad in the arms of Cardinal Fuzz. Best grab one of these because neither of those labels has a tendency to let record sit idle in their bins.



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Bill MacKay & Katinka Kleijn

After already gracing 2019 with a hushed and humble folk opus, Bill MacKay changes tack and delivers a stunner of an instrumental collaboration with Chicago cellist Katinka Kleijn. Equally inviting and engrossing as Fountain Fire, STIR winds down another woolen path, though one fraught with slightly more experimental inclinations. The pair play off each other’s strengths – MacKay’s guitar bristles and flows here, threading a more technical side of his playing that’s come forward in his work with Ryley Walker in the past. Kleijn, for her part, gives the songs a less soft-focus approach than his previous album, adding layers of unease and prickled anguish through her discordant passages and plucked delivery. The record is reportedly inspired by the Hesse novel Steppenwolf, though that seems to be more of a guide than a milemarker as this one winds by. The story isn’t the focus, but the emotions weigh just the same.

The album is heavy with hope and sadness, emotionally bare and ready to get hurt again. MacKay’s playing is inquisitive one moment and heartbroken the next. Kleijn balances his runs as a well-worn foil. They fade into one another as the dominant voice of the pieces so easily that the focus blurs and bends, giving neither a true supporting role. They are a duo in the truest sense, weaving their sounds like sonic textiles, knotted but never tangled. Perhaps this isn’t for the fans who are looking for MacKay to lull them down the river, but for fans of guitar prowess and instrumental acumen, this is a gem to be sure.




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Ned Collette, James Rushford, Joe Talia

If you’re familiar with Ned Collette via his previous outing for Feeding Tube, last year’s Old Chestnut, then the new collaboration from Collette, James Rushford and Joe Talia might throw you off a bit. HIs last record was defined by its storyteller soul, treading a crossroads between Roy Harper, Lee Hazelwood, and Leonard Cohen. So, to walk into Afternoon-Dusk and hear not a word is spoken, seems like a complete about face for the artist. That line of thinking, however, discounts the playing on Old Chestnut which, divorced from his lyrics simmers and bows with its own beautiful intensity. Here Collette pairs his guitar with the idiosyncratic drumming of Talia (Jim O’Rourke’s band) and the viola experimentents of Rushford. While “Afternoon” dips into the water with the same grey-skied intentions as the instrumentals on Old Chestnut, where it goes from there is anywhere but languid.

The trio coats the first track in clatter and anxiety. As that sun dips, the the shadows loom and the creeping dread of night grows closer. There may be three of them, but the solitude here is palpable. Guilt gnaws at the bones of “Afternoon” turning the sun’s beams cold and giving every passing stranger a sinister hue. On the next side, “Dusk” does little to dispel this sense of dread and dire circumstances. Rushford’s viola doesn’t swoon or weep, but instead cries out in panic stabbing at the senses and inspiring a bit of fight or flight. The drums skitter like wild animals and Collette brings all manner of anxious energy to the track. The tones in dusk reach a peak that feels as if the listener is cornered and consumed, or at least in danger of becoming consumed at any moment. The record is another side of Collette and the ensemble he’s put together is playing at a peak. If you’ve come for round 2 on Old Chestnut, then this isn’t the right place, but it’s a great place to be nonetheless.




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Bill Orcutt

After years of disassembling the notions of song through the divinations of his guitar, Bill Orcutt is putting them back together, albeit with his own slant on what folk and blues are meant to be. Orcutt’s always had a knack for taking songforms into less comfortable territory, letting his runs ruffle rather than soothe the soul, all while shaking the American Songbook by its ankles. He’s found a cache of secret notes between the pages of that songbook and he’s pulled a few of them into his own compositions for a ride that’s both familiar and transformative. The record roots itself in the same fingerpicked folk that might rear its head on a Richard Bishop or Fahey album and the same syncopated blues that informed players from the porches to the stage, but like Tetuzi Akiyama, Loren Connors, or 75 Dollar Bill alongside him, he’s taken the riff and ramble and given them teeth.

His runs aren’t pure, and we should all be thankful for that. When Orcutt runs the boogie down he’s bound to bend bones to the point of breaking if the listener is inspired to movement. Don’t nod along too hard lest you strain a ligament, y’know. His acoustic runs still bring forth the image of natural splendor, but there’s a taste of man-made disaster in there as well. In his vision trees are uprooted and twisted with power lines and smells of charred wood mingle with verdant moss. Orcutt goes to the well and brings back the elements of life, but not before letting a bit of blood loose in the water. We are nourished and slightly poisoned at the same time. As usual he’s proven a master of his forms, but just as usual he’s taken expectation and kicked it into the dirt. There are others that have tried, but few that can find that same singular light that Orcutt brings to an album.




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Charles Rumback & Ryley Walker – “Half Joking”

Drummer Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker re-team for a new record on Thrill Jockey and it pulls them both out of their camps a bit. When we all last left Ryley he was exploring the boundaries of Chicago’s post-rock history. The record lay in stark contrast to his earlier folk works, but opened him up a starker side of his writing. Rumback, for his part has spent the last decade plus exploring jazz complexities with the likes of John Hughes, John Tate, Colorist, and From Beyond. The pair found themselves together on record in 2016 for Dead Oceans, exploring the waters somewhere between Ryley’s Deafman Glance setup and those collaborative moments in Rumback’s catalog. This time, though, the mode is decidedly more serene, hearkening back to some of Walker’s English folk leanings early on. “Half Joking” is a pastoral ripple across the strings that spreads out wide and winsome over the sun-dappled fields. Quite a nice offering from the pair. Look for Little Common Twist out November 8th.



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Bill MacKay + Katinka Kleijn – “Hermine”

Its been a rather banner year for Bill MacKay. The guitarist’s last album landed in February and its one of his most affecting statements to date, which in a catalog of his caliber isn’t any small feat. Now he’s got another LP on the way, this time with Dutch Cellist Katinka Kleijn. The first taste of their upcoming Drag City album is scarred and scratched. McKay’s guitar work is far more fanged than on Fountain Fire but no less vital. The first cut “Hermine” is feral, burnt, hollowed — it’s a much more ferricious side of MacKay than his simmering folk and Kleijn adds a shading and dimension that brings his playing forward in stark relief. Check the video for the first cut above and look out for this one on October 11th.

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High Aura’d & Josh Mason

A new collaboration between High Aura’d and Josh Mason dips a bit of Florida burn into Ohio’s noise scene. Last found creeping around the RSTB pages with his psych-folk outfit Gemini Sisters, John Kolodij’s High Aura’d has remained a long-standing stain (in a great way) on the Midwest’s noise nooks and psych-folk circles. This time the he works with Mason to wind through the hushed corners of menacing silence — distant echoes, scrapes unseen, the mind playing constant tricks on the listener. Underneath the unsettling clatter, guitars seethe and kick at the amplifier, never bursting forth from their bounds, but pressing against the restraints with a physical presence. Opener “Rhododendron” howls — a trapped animal in full panic, hackles raised, poised to strike.

Further in the feelings are less feral and more fetal. “Silver” trims the fangs, and feels remorseful, shamed, not quite broken, but close. The arc of the record then follows to transcendence, coiling again into strength. The guitars on “Black” burn with a caustic tension that feels on par with Stephen R. Smith’s various convergences under the Ulaan banner. Here too there’s the sense of gnawing desperation and icy will that Smith has been able to imbue his works with all these years. The record draws to a close dug further into depths than before — alive but barely, breathing in spite of itself. There’d be a bit of relief in the final moments but the pair let just a glimmer of iris and a glint of fang show all the way to the end. Both artists are pushing their personal styles to the edges and coming out with a collaboration that’s riveting the whole way through.



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SUSS – “Chisholm Trail”

Adding to the cosmic conversation, NY’s Suss molds lysergic instrumentals threaded through with a country calm and rippled with serenity. The band is grafting aquamarine slides and tear-jerked guitars to the radiant shimmer and ambient float of synths, creating a hybrid of William Tyler’s country pickers and Boards of Canada’s otherworldly ambiance. On the A-side to their upcoming single, “Chisholm Trail,” the band heralds their arrival with mournful harmonicas that seem to indicate a Morricone twang is imminent before melting like moonlight into warbling tones, buttery pedal steel, and galloping strums. The track’s about as meditative as they come, with just a touch of bittersweet on the back end, making this one easy to absorb before it slips away into the night on the edges of pre-dawn fog. The new single arrives June 28th from Northern Spy.




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Jacco Gardner – Fading Cosmos 12″

Jacco Gardner’s last album, while still quite steeped in the seeds of psychedelia, was a departure of sorts. It served as a complete instrumental journey that echoes the type of synth-heavy psych and prog that inhabited the Harvest label, the more cosmic side of the ‘70s German underground, and pastoral Swedish psychedelia. Along with those sessions Gardner recorded two songs that didn’t seem to quite fit with the overarching journey and now they being released as a 12” called Fading Cosmos. The title track still follows the album’s thrust of burbling synths and lilting guitar melancholia, but there’s not as much buzzing of the MS20 that drove his direction on Somnium.

Rooted in the idea that artificial light is slowly eroding our ability to observe cosmic occurrences, the song wafts into a quivering dream state that’s almost unsettling in the ease of its embrace. Hazy, and rocking on a lullaby beat, the song slowly hypnotizes the listener into a meditative bliss while the organ sketches soft penlight patterns on the eyelids. Along with the flip, “Autumn in Lisbon,” the release makes a nice compliment to Somnium‘s synthedelic themes. The new EP out June 14th from Full Time Hobby.



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Isasa

Quietly tumbling under the leaves of 2019 is the third album from Madrid’s Conrado Isasa – a fingerpicked gem that’s indebted to the Takoma school, but leaning forward towards a more experimental future. The guitarist’s phrases tumble delicately from his fingers, recalling his fascination with Fahey, but also the more open-ended spectrum of Richard Bishop. There’s often an inherent sadness in Isasa’s works, heartbroken but not beaten. On the slow and stately “Conversaciones en un Supermercado” the artist captures the empty ennui of wandering through necessary consumerism, forced to connect with humanity through the clarification of produce. On “Cuesta Ramon” he balances Eastern trills against a harmonium drone, taking his playing from American valleys to the hum and bustle of Indian cities, again conveying a sort of lostness within a sea of humanity. He even gives his influence Fahey a nod with a title dedicated to him, echoing the legendary guitarists balance of movement and touch through his feel of the strings.

There is joy also, though. He rambles like Rose on “Arquitecto Tinista,” cracking open the windows to let the sunlight shine down and the cool spring breezes blow damp and delightful. He wanders around the city square with no particular place to be on “Pocitos, Montevideo,” a shy, yet sweet track that’s an exercise in restraint. Throughout the album’s many moods the thread of isolation and connection seems to chew at the listener. Often fingerpicked albums convey moments of ebullience and anxiety but Isasa excels in finding the feelings between the extremes. He’s sketched an aural ode to unsure interludes, crossed glances, mild reliefs, and heartbreaks so small they’re only noticed after being added together at the end of a day. His touch on the strings echoes in the mind long after the needle’s left the record, haunting the listener like a task left unfinished, a sentiment unresolved.



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