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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