extraordinarily beautiful eight-song cycle, All Is Falling continues
James Blackshaw’s development as a composer and arranger, as well as guitarist.
Like last year’s Glass Bead Game, it extends well beyond the 12-string
wizardry that first brought Blackshaw notice, moving into dizzying landscapes
of guitar, piano, voice and strings.
Is Falling, Blackshaw switched from acoustic to 12-string electric guitar,
resulting in a sound that is rounder, fuller and louder, though without the
acoustic’s characteristic shimmer of overtones. Blackshaw says that the
electric’s lighter structure allowed him to play faster, as well, though he
seemed pretty fast already. (It also allows for some very dramatic power
chords, as in the otherwise placid “Part 4”). To this foundation, he adds
lush washes of strings – violinists Charlotte
Glasson and Fran Bury and cellist Daniel Madav – and bits of other instruments.
The mix of sounds turns heady, almost disorienting in spots, but never heavy.
The playing on all instruments seems technically accomplished, but more
importantly joyful and full of light. In “Part 6” one of the most charming
moments, Blackshaw and one of his supporting musicians count out overlapping
rhythms of three, four and six, voicing some of the difficulty of the piece
that is hidden under its lilting lyricism.
musical moorings have long since slipped the confines of Takoma-style
primitivism. You can hear bits of blues-folk, to be sure, but also classical
references and an intriguing Eastern slant that makes him sound, at time, a
little like Sandy Bull. There is even an extended experiment with dissonance
and drone in the final “Part 8,” where single notes are allowed to hold on
nearly indefinitely, shaded by iridescent layers of feedback and overtone.
here is quite as stunning as “Cross”, the highlight from last year’s Glass
Bead Game, but the pieces work together much better than that album’s
material in a seamless whole. Blackshaw has, once again, demonstrated not just
mastery of his guitar, but a singular vision for guitar-based
DOWNLOAD: “Part 3” “Part 6” JENNIFER KELLY