Monday, October 27, 2008

Hush Arbors, Robbie Basho and Crystal Stilts

Three reviews up today, two at PopMatters, one at Blurt.

Hush Arbors
Hush Arbors
(Ecstatic Peace)
US release date: 21 October 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Like Sun Through Leaves

Hush Arbors’ Keith Wood has made any number of home-recorded albums, some under his current nom de plume, others with Sunburned Hand of the Man and Golden Oaks. Along with Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, he can sometimes be found playing guitar in David Tibet’s Current 93, yet he has little of Tibet’s visionary foreboding. In this self-titled album, the first on Ecstatic Peace, he explores an exceptionally sunny, calm, natural landscape with clear acoustic guitar and fuzzy electric one. Every track feels suffused with organic energy, the glow of natural light, the green haze of leafy vistas, the bright optimism of sunny days.


Couple of streams here

Crystal Stilts
Alight of Night

You'll get a good whiff of Creation Records off these reverb-heavy, bass-driven grooves, which clank and drone like Jesus & Mary Chain, but slip in a bit of Felt's pop iridescence. Singer Brad Hargett has got the deep, hollow-toned Brit-voice down, though he hails from Brooklyn, and JB Townsend manages to make jangly tangles of guitar both light-hearted and ominous. A tambourine clatters through the whole album, so that no matter how fun-house echoey things turn -- and they do seem to be recording in a concrete bunker -- you always know it's a party. And if you get lost in the clouds and fogs of sound, there is always the bass line (that's Andy Adler of the Ninjas) galloping forward to guide you.

The rest

"Crystal Stilts"

Robbie Basho
Bonn Ist Supreme

Robbie Basho, Bonn Ist Supreme (Bo’ Weavil)
Robbie Basho is now recognized as one of the great guitar players of the 20th century, ranking alongside acoustic innovators such as John Fahey and Leo Kottke for his expansive redefinition of how a steel string guitar might sound. This live recording, laid to tape in late 1980 just six years before Basho’s death, provides a very intimate glimpse into his genius. Here you can observe him in his natural element, not just coaxing an orchestra’s worth of sounds from his 12-string, but also retuning, venturing a few phrases in German and apologizing for the “fussiness” of a 115-year-old instrument.

Like many of his contemporaries, Basho refused to be pigeonholed into any single style. His music incorporated Appalachian folk, deep southern blues, raga and European classical influences. He took his name “Basho” from a Japanese poet and experimented with Asian scales and tonalities in his work as well. This disc gives a reasonably good overview of where Basho had traveled during his career. “California Raga” recorded on 1971’s Song of the Stallion shows how Basho first began splicing together American and Celtic folk melodies with the piercing tonalities of classical Indian raga. He sings on this piece, in addition to playing, in a high stirring voice that is, perhaps, not as accomplished as his fingers, but spiritually moving all the same.

You also get a taste of his classical side. Basho believed that the steel stringed guitar—both the 12 and the six-string models—deserved as important a role in classical music as the concert piano, and he wrote and played extensively in this tradition. In this show, he plays a smattering of pieces from his 1979 disc The Art of the Steel Stringed Guitar 6 and 12—a surpassingly delicate and evocative reimagination of Debussey’s “Claire De Lune,” a magnificent, symphonic rendition of “Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis”, and beautifully melancholy “The Grail and the Lotus”, which slips American blues and Indian drones into themes from Wagner’s “Parsifal”.

The disc comes packaged with appreciative quotes from followers Jack Rose and James Blackshaw, as well as longer essays from guitarists Steffen Basho-Junghans (who altered his name in admiration of Basho), Richard Osborn and Glenn Jones (who produced the album, as well). Osborn, in particular, sheds light on Basho’s spiritual side, noting that he once performed Basho’s “The Falconer’s Arm” at a “metaphysical church.” “Later a member of the audience came up and asked ‘Where did you hear that music?’”, Osborn writes. “I replied that I had learned it from Robbie Basho. He then said, ‘Before tonight, I have only ever heard it in the spirit world.’” It’s a strange story, but perfectly in line with the ineffable beauty of Bonn Ist Supreme. [Amazon ]

“Redwood Ramble”

"Variations on Easter"

Basho's (posthumous) MySpace


robp said...

Well, the Stilts lp is one of my faves of the year thus far. It all feels underwater and morphined out, which is maybe why the drowning seems fun.

Haven't heard the Basho much yet, I'm inundated with great avant guitarists at the moment and my moods don't call for that sort of thing on a regular basis, so each gets a periodic turn.

I think I might have a Hush Arbors track on a mix, but only if I got it from you.

You do such a fine job of proselytizing for new bands (or at least not big name ones), it's a shame you've been stripped of yr professional status.

I will pay you in best wishes, and a round for all of drinking age if you ever make it out this way (there wouldn't be more than 2 of you, right? By the time you have a child old enough to drink - legally - I may be out of beer money.)

Cheers Jen,


jenniferpkelly said...

Hi, Rob. We will have to make it out west some day. I have never been to San Francisco, but everyone says that I would like far is Oakland? Close, right?

I have been feeling the need for easier music lately...way too much difficult genius, not enough drummers throwing sticks in the air and counting "one, two, three, four"

Thanks for the Thompson...speaking of genius, though maybe not so difficult...

Yes, I did put a Hush Arbors cut up on my last mix, good stuff.

Nice to hear from you.