Rob Noyes & Joseph Allred


This one pairs up two of the past few years’ most interesting guitarists for a conversation in string that’s as dizzying as it is delightful. While Noyes already has a stunner under his belt for VDSQ this year, Allred has been on a tireless tear with Feeding Tube, among other hubs like Garden Portal. He’s released somewhere around 9 recordings between 2019 and now. Avoidance Language is a flurry of strings, as might be expected after hearing Noyes’ album from earlier this year. His style has pushed away from any of the usual blues and folk pools to swim in a more natural light, feeling akin to the vibrations of hummingbird wings and the heat quiver of sunlight on the road. Allred brings his guitar for a convergence of minds on the opener “Feet of Clay and a Crown of Stars,” but elsewhere he opens up the palate with a dose of banjo and harmonium into the mix.

This translates into a drone tether on “Stutter Study,” the constant hum keeping Noyes’ guitar flourishes from scattering to the skies like dandelion seeds in the wind. Particularly nice is the interaction between Allred’s banjo rambles and Noyes’ guitar, but maybe I’m just locked into love of those particular instruments intertwined after standout offerings from Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles and the Black Twig Pickers this year. Though unlike either of those, this is a pure abstraction of form, rooted away from the old time dance motions of either of those records.

“A Valid Subspecies” creeps in as a calm respite in the album’s often frenetic pace. Noyes slows his fingers to a saunter here and lets Allred show off a bit and the two enter into a dance that sweeps them back towards the gusts of notes by the time the track collapses to a close. They close out with the album’s namesake, as heavy a track as they open on, and perhaps even heavier. If the duo ever stared down the abyss in song, this might be the evidence. There are plenty of notable guitar parings over the years and this release bumps Noyes and Allred right up there with a few of the best.

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