Posts Tagged ‘VDSQ’

Donald Miller

While he’s been shredding the fabric of the universe for years in Borbetomagus, among other like-minded noise/free jazz outlets, Donald Miller joins VDSQ’s latest crop of acoustic guitar offerings to show another side of his stringwork. Diverging greatly from the rest of the roster though, Miller’s work doesn’t follow a set school, but instead plunges the fingerpicked blues through turbulent tributaries away from structure and predictability. In flurries of notes that come like snow squalls his pieces surround the listener with a barrage of picked strings, sawed and stretched passages that whip like wind funneled through a canyon, and punctured stops that work a visceral grit into the self-winking album titled Transgression!!!.

While certainly abstract to its core, the record seems to take at least emotional inspiration from a variety of sources, with most (though not all) songs finding themselves dedicated to notable players from Charlie Patton and Jack Rose, with one nodded to Manson Family alum Squeaky Frome. Its interesting to hear Miller wrestle with beauty and calm. There are moments when the record finds a meditational even keel, but the natural forces within both Miller and his 12-string muse submit to the construction from destruction impulse that cycles through the cosmos every time. VDSQ has unleashed a trio of excellent guitar impulses this month and Miller’s latest is a force that needs to be experienced.



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Rob Noyes

A month in and already 2021 has been a banner year for instrumental guitar. While the year might not get another voice as singular as Yasmin Williams, this sophomore LP from Rob Noyes is certainly doing its best to keep pace. Built around an affinity for texture and dynamics aside from virtuosity, Noyes is admittedly working more through the Kottke style than either of the other usual suspects — shunning an overly blues base or overt raga dependence. Noyes’ playing is full of life and delightfully shy of an antiseptic studio feel. The room around him seems as much a part of the record as the strings and fingers. Even through the speakers its almost as if the sun can bee felt streaking through swirls of dust, imprinting itself on the listener. An audible sigh and creak of a chair just add coloration to the pieces, as natural as the bend of a string.

The tempos run rampant, built less on theory than on nature and feel. It’s easy to get swept up in the feelings that course through Noyes’ pieces, always seeming to need a catch of breath by the time a song skids to a stop. Like his muse in Kotke, Noyes channels the sun, scattering notes where they lie and letting the sparkle set the tone. For that, despite Rob’s heavy intonation, the temperament is quite gentle, spinning through the speakers in resplendent hues. When Noyes does let the sunshower of strums die down his picking is patient and delicate, webs woven in the moments just after the clouds part. With Arc Minutes Noyes has created a hopeful respite for all of us. It’s most appreciated, for that alone.




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Chuck Johnson – “Raz-de-Marée”

2021 continues last year’s exploration of pedal steel as a divining force for solace and sorrow. With a follow-up to 2017’s Balsams Johnson again inhabits the nature of loss to find the furrow of scar tissue that lays inside the mind. This time he’s looking past the wound to the world built on top of the turmoil —the good and bad that have been propped against the pain. “Raz-de-Marée” unfolds with a slow elegance, radiating a healing light that pours like relief from a sob. Notably, Johnson has sought to bring not only the emotional depth through the instrument, but to utilized particular spaces to capture an atmosphere within each track. “Johnson dug through archival recordings from Oakland DIY performance spaces to digitally extract their reverb and echo qualities. He then applied these effects—as well as the digitally modeled reverberation of a redwood forest—to the tracks on The Cinder Grove. The effect, at least on the first song, is a peaceful natural air that calms what it can’t cure. The record is out February 5th from VDSQ.



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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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Chris Brokaw on Kevin Drumm – 1983 & Quiet Nights

If you traveled in certain circles in the ‘90s, in particular the kind that tipped towards the inward gaze of slowcore and the knotted tussle of indie then you’re likely already well versed in the works of Chris Brokaw. The artist spent years in the ranks of Codeine (drums) and Come (guitar), punching double on his indie-cred free coffee card with releases on Sub Pop and Matador in the same year. Throw in aughts favorite The New Year and a stint on Touch & Go and that indie rock bingo sheet is rapidly filling up. More recently Chris has been laying down down high quality solo spins that brush post-rock, jazz, and American Primitive, scoring for films, and occasionally flaying some brains in RSTB faves Charnel Ground alongside James McNew and Kid Millions. Just off the release of his excellent new LP for VDSQ Brokaw found time to kick in a pair of faves for the Hidden Gems series, giving the nod to experimental guitarist Kevin Drum’s run of CD-rs in 2013. Check Chris’ picks below.

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