For most of his career, Chris Whitley has engaged in an endless cycle of beefing up and stripping down, veering back and forth from screaming feedback to intimate whispers. In sharp contrast to his last outing, Rocket House, which featured samples and electronic sounds, the all-acoustic Hotel Vast Horizon accentuates the stillness -- although, as with everything Whitley does, tranquility seldom enters the picture. The disc presents a windswept landscape, one marked by unsteadily painted markers and deeply furrowed roads. The title track exudes a hazy Americana, its shuffling gait propelled by a loping bass line, while "Wide Open Return" draws a neo-Gypsy feel from Whitley's wistful picking and longing, lyrical backward glances. As is his wont, Whitley offers vividly colored but amorphously outlined story lines. "Insurrection at Newtown," for instance, evokes an acrid sense of menace without proffering too many details. While not as unflaggingly dark and dissipated as much of Whitley's past work, Hotel Vast Horizon is still shadowy enough to elicit chills. Like a sepia-toned postcard of long-departed vistas, it seeps into the unconscious, suggesting more in its silences than many collections offer in their loudest moments.