Monday, January 10, 2005

A few more releases to make note of before movin on to the next orders of bidiness. After having the three recent releases on Digitalis for a month or so I've finally been able to get my ears around 'em, and I can say without reservation, each one offers something for the introspective traveler. In the case of The Lost Domain's "Sailor, Home From the Sea," coreleased on my old pal Mats' Broken Face imprint, that means ominous atmosphere and austere experimentation. This one took me some days to come to terms with, 'specially after the busier free jazz/psych scapes that made up their last CD-R for the Rhizome label, owned/operated by the ever knowledgeable Jon Dale. It's quieter and chillier, but rarely relaxed. The instrumentation is scaled back to the point that sometimes there's just organ or sax, faint percussion and the ghost of a guitar along with a wind instrument or some chimes pushing things forward. From the two part bookends of a cover of John Lee Hooker's "Waterfront" (complete with vocal cackles) to the four instrumentals that comprise the meat of the platter, each track offers a wind-swept journey through the deep dark blue void. These tracks have the mythical sway and pull of a Greek epic where the tumult kicks up a dank atmosphere of salty spirits, restless electronics and even some haunted melodies, all searching for that path back home.

With "Under Bent Limb Trees," Hush Arbors' follow-up to the excellent "Since We Have Fallen" CD-R, Keith Wood further expands on the haunted drone folk tapestry of his earlier works with minimal pieces of transcendental dream music juxtaposed with distant folk melodies. Wood's fragile, high voice glides over top an organic melange of guitar, bowed dulcimer, singing bowl, banjo, found sounds and more, all brilliantly constructed as vivid forest songs. In the case of the albums centerpiece "May All Your Pastures Now Spring With Herbs" that means acoustic guitars and voice are augmented with dissonant feedback washes, falling somewhere between the Ivytree and Flying Saucer Attack. While "Gypsy Wood" reposes his folk meanderings with the faintest hint of drone that seems to echo a distant siren call. What makes Hush Arbors essential listening though is the way Wood tempers these more intimate pieces with vivid strokes of minimal noise that convey a sense of bleary-eyed reverence and quiet contemplation. I should've ranked this one higher than the Foxglove CD-R (now long gone, save for piracy measures), but I doubt the dozen or so people who read this regularly will mind the discrepancy.

Also new on Digitalis: James Blackshaw's "Lost Prayers & Motionless Dances." This young Brit is a newbie to me, but his playing sounds as inspiring as the Adirondacks (or Appalachians or the Sierra Nevadas...). Put quite simply, there's a new finger picker in town, and he smokes in a post Robbie Basho way that will have you Jack Rose fans tripping over your tongues reaching for new ostentatious descriptions to wow the hip masses with. On top of some fluid 12 string workouts he piles on harmonium, radio, bells, cymbal and tom, but the mix is tastefully employed, building from a trance intro of harmonium fluctuations to florid 12-string raga that really does the job in terms of sweeping the mind clean before arriving at a mellower cul de sac of free/electro fuzz bits and muted quarks that eventually erupt at a folk gallop before its over. It's a trip in the purest sense of the word, one track clocking in at 35 mins, which makes it highly digestible in about the same amount of time it takes to have lunch or trip balls on some DMT. Looks like I'll have to hunt down his first release on Celebrate Psi Phenomenon before all's said and done.

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