No Quarter Records
When Nathan Salsburg’s not playing guitar in support of Joan Shelley’s fine songs in what is now a long-time collaboration he makes his own music, pretty, beguiling folk instrumentals for the most part. (I particularly loved Third).
But he’s turned the tables somewhat with this wonderful curio – inspired by lockdown and by the ambient reconstructions of the composer “Caretaker” and specifically the album, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, Salsburg here offers four long instrumental pieces (titled I, II, III, IV – they feel like standalone pieces rather than parts to one whole but they play through as an album, I can’t imagine just listening to one of the tracks on its own and feeling fully satiated).
Using electric guitar to wind folk circumlocutions around rhythms he finds in the run-off grooves from old 78s this is a version of timelessness – time itself seems stretched, not just between the analog and digital worlds of the tech he’s harnessing but in the way the music breathes, the call and response as layers pile up and unfurl.
If ever there was a lockdown music – a soundtrack if you will – to the torment of inner thought then this might be it.
But it’s not a harrowing listen. Rather it’s the beauty that’s found in this sort of deep contemplation.
My immediate reference point I decided on when first listening – and I’m sticking with it – is to imagine Steve Gunn making his own version of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops, or possibly just playing along from deep within them.
Landwerk I opens with a liquid-coil of guitar set across the crackle and hiss of an old record whirring beneath as both a form of percussion and a framing device to take this music away from any distinct time (both time signature as well as state or place).
Landwerk II might be the most quietly devastating of the pieces – stretched and forlorn horns parp like a slow-motion funereal procession as Salsburg’s guitar ditches any of its signature folk feel, instead slithering like disembodied jazz towards and then away from anything resembling a melody. This instead is a malady of a tune. That’s all it is. And it’s all the more glorious and hypnotic due to that.
Landwerk III is the album’s shortest piece at just 7 minutes. Here you could think of a demented oom-pah band almost, the melody from the record player though feels Turkish or Greek as it spirals around itself and Salsburg’s guitar spider-dances down the spine of the song.
We’re in deep sonorous ambient mode for Landwerk IV – the 11-minute finale. Here, and I guess elsewhere across the album, I had another reference point that might mean nothing to you but means the world to me: This is somewhere between the worlds of Michael Morley (The Dead C/Gate) and Mike Oldfield. The approximation of a Celtic round that sits in the decay of a song falling in on itself.
This is beautiful stuff. I’m knocked for six by it. And it’s my new favourite for right now. Requires deep listening. And won’t of course be for everyone. Even better!
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