Acoustic guitarist Daniel Bachman floored fans and critics with his sixth album, 2015's River. That set, and in particular its long opener "Won't You Cross Over to That Other Shore," revealed the guitarist not so much as a gifted technician -- though he certainly was and is -- but as a composer sketching, articulating, and quietly relating narrative melodies in a seductive, beguiling, and lyric whole. This self-titled follow-up is altogether different. Here Bachman is as interested in revealing the sounds, spaces, and tones that inhabit and surround the notes he hears and chooses as he is in illustrating harmonic ideas -- more so, in fact. River was intimate, but this album is almost suffocating in its closeness. Recorded by Brian Haran, the physical sounds of the instrument's machinery, the guitarist's breath, and his moving hands and fingers are captured in raw detail. Opener "Brightleaf Blues" offers two minutes of unhurried, almost scraped slide drones before the more assonant sound of Bachman playing a slide even enters. Single and muted notes appear in glacial time, blurring the outline of a modal melody, until fingerpicking adds plucked chords to extend the tonal reaches of his slide. "Wine and Peanuts" walks a staggering line between a rag and a Piedmont blues; Bachman switches and combines styles, as a lyric idea -- far off at first -- emerges to suggest rather than assert itself. The sequel to "Brightleaf Blues" is over 14 minutes long, and more abstract than its predecessor. Bachman plays an East Indian shruti box made of bellows as well as a guitar, accompanied by Forrest Marquisee on octotone, an eight-sided wooden instrument with a medium-sized hole on each side. The guitarist uses his slide to articulate whole-tone drones seeking the bones of a single melody, but various ones appear for moments at a time -- fragments closely resemble George Harrison's "Within You, Without You" from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album -- atop the layered drones. This particular line of investigation is measured and turned inside out as warm tones and impressions are explored through fingerpicking, bass note exposition, and slide. It's like a ghostly cousin of "Won't You Cross Over to That Other Shore," but it doesn't tell a story, it's seeking one. The somewhat piercing, glassy, dissonant drones of its predecessor usher in its nadir. The rambling, lonesome slide blues of "Watermelon Slices on a Blue Bordered Plate" is a sweet return to Bachman's grainy Southern roots before a short, poignant, and brittle reading of the country gospel hymn "Farther Along" whispers the record out amid a backdrop of softly chirping birds. While it's true that River was more readily accessible than Daniel Bachman, the latter is no less magical. It takes nothing for granted. The guitarist accounts for every sound and impression from his instrument and surroundings here, allowing the listener deep inside a sound world at the moment of its creation.
|Label:||Three Lobed Rec.|