|Guy Blakeslee||The Middle Sister (Jan 15, 2016)|
Guy Blakeslee — The Middle Sister (Jan 15, 2016)
••• Guy Blakeslee’s second album under his own name is issued by Leaving Records, an L.A. imprint that specializes in the astral and the abstruse. These six pieces are complementary, connected tributes to several strains of musical mysticism — American primitive guitar playing, New Age trance~induction, Krautrock ascendance, and ambient drift.
Born: April 24, 1981
Location: Los Angeles, California
Styles: Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk, Indie Rock, Neo~Psychedelia
Album release: January 15th, 2016
Record Label: Leaving Records
1 Halcyon Movement 1 8:22
2 Halcyon Movement 2 10:22
3 Maja (Queen of the Storm) Movement 1 5:51
4 Maja (Queen of the Storm) Movement 2 4:44
5 Maja (Queen of the Storm) Movement 3 2:49
6 Maja (Queen of the Storm) Movement 4 5:51
℗ 2016 Leaving Records
By Grayson Haver Currin, JANUARY 12 2016 / Score: 6.4
••• Guy Blakeslee, it seems, did not launch a solo career with a clear category in mind. In 2014, after a decade spent leading the occasionally entrancing psych~and~blues syndicate the Entrance Band, Blakeslee stepped from beneath a long~hanging haze to issue Ophelia Slowly, his proper solo entrée.
••• The nine~song set suggested the musical equivalent of a clean haircut acquired for a job interview, as though Blakeslee wanted to prove he had moved beyond the chemically addled numbers of his youth and matured into proper rock songcraft. As such, moments on Ophelia Slowly aligned with the War on Drugs, Beach House, the Walkmen and, lo and behold, Kings of Leon. Sure, some wild~eyed, static~heavy clips remained, but now past the age of 30, Blakeslee seemed to have cleaned up his act and cleared up his songs.
••• But The Middle Sister, his second LP under his own name, is a reentrance to a psychedelic state of mind, at least on the surface. Issued by Leaving Records, a Los Angeles imprint that specializes in the astral and the abstruse, The Middle Sister is an all~instrumental, guitar~and~accessories reverie of two very different, very high minds. If Ophelia Slowly was Blakeslee’s attempt to sharpen the edges of his rock and aim for a bigger audience, The Middle Sister turns left and aims for the solitude of the stars. These six pieces are complementary, connected tributes to several strains of musical mysticism — American primitive guitar playing, New Age trance-induction, krautrock ascendance, and ambient drift. It fails, however, to get very far beyond pleasant.
••• The record’s first half, a two~song collection called “Halcyon Movement,” offers precisely what the title implies — peaceful, feather~light acoustic guitar meditations that spiral upward toward some New Age ideals, for eight~to~10 minutes each. Not content with the sound of six strings alone, the second selection adds the sustained washes of singing bowls and the twinkling ripples of distant piano. Blakeslee plays a bit harder above them, feverishly strumming the chords toward the diptych’s end as though pushing back against the very veil of prettiness he’s created. These extended compositions reach for the majesty of James Blackshaw’s finest recorded hours, which turned six or 12 strings into graceful little symphonies. But Blakeslee’s approximations are rudimentary and shambolic, too uneven and pedestrian to provide the lift of his predecessors.
••• The four~movement back half, collectively dubbed “Maja (Queen of the Storm),” comes as an uninterrupted four~song suite. Blakeslee starts alone, routing rudimentary triads through a series of guitar effects, tape delays, and static shrouds. It’s a wan recreation of the Stars of the Lid’s galaxy~sized swells. A drum machine subsequently anchors this wafting chromaticism, with rays of noise dissolving into and out of a beat that is itself more identifiable than Klaus Dinger’s name. Blakeslee lets that steady thrum disappear gradually, first into a drums~and~guitar space jam and, finally, a glacial six~minute exit that splits the difference between Eno’s ambient systems and Tim Hecker’s high~volume thrall. This is a listener’s digest version of those enormous touchstones; Blakeslee has slimmed the giants he summons of necessary weight and context, repurposing their accomplishments into his own facile end.
••• The best of Blakeslee’s work with Entrance found him digging deep into archaic source material, challenging and churning it into tunes that, no matter how clear the inspirations, felt like personal journals. He’d wrestled with the references. But The Middle Sister feels passive and passing, like a fleeting homage from a musician just starting to explore new sources. It’s hard not to picture Blakeslee in the back of a van or at the desk of a bedroom, going down YouTube, Spotify, or MP3~blog wormholes with transfixing masters like John Fahey or Lubomyr Melnyk, Cluster or Ash Ra Tempel, only to re~emerge with the hope of making a record like that of his own. What will tickle his fancy next, you wonder?
••• Our instant access to almost everything produces interesting, vital recombinations of sounds and styles at an astonishing clip. But the same capability can lead, of course, to records that, like The Middle Sister, scan like the composite result of a string of Google searches. It’s a modern joy to be forever a digital dilettante, continually discovering something new with each successive point~and~click. It’s a lot less interesting to hear a restless musician turn in an album that’s little else.
|Guy Blakeslee||The Middle Sister (Jan 15, 2016)|