The last Rhyton album was one of 2021’s highlights around here and Shuford follows it up with a solo jaunt under his long lingering, but less often used, moniker Theoxenia. The album, a meditation on stasis, explores the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. Locked digital cages with glass walls, a prison with a view. Outside lies the adventure, captured by others to share, but it always seems too far out of reach. To this effect Shuford lets repetition, distortion, and degradation rule the album. Many of the pieces employ bouzouki, doumbek, and mandole, feeling like the draw of the distant and unexplored. Were these pieces the only focus, this would feel like a very different album, something on par with Sir Richard Bishop jaunts, but darker undercurrents disrupt their idyll. These lures are often followed by a track that’s viscous and foreboding, a reminder that the lushness of his stringwork wonders remains out of reach.
On midpoint, “Opacity of the Apparatus,” buzzing tones light up like a signal traversing wires, a constant hum under his synth swirls. “Shower Circuit” lets running water create a haphazard rhythm behind headache synths, an anxiety cloud that never leaves and is never quite washed away. Though, the closer does attempt some sort of resolve. “Continental Breeze” is the most serene of the bunch. Whether it’s a true escape or just more of the simulation hardly matters by the time the album comes to a close, it’s relief either way. Still buzzing just a touch, but floating in a slightly narcotic haze that quivers on the winds.
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