So you know the way that Thrill Jockey is an absolutely ridiculously good record label?
It’s home to plenty of contemporary (noisy/spacey/drony) American guitar music, the likes of White Hills, Arbouretum and Wooden Shjips, for example. But it also finds room for such esoteric delights as Future Islands, Tortoise (and all its offshoots) The Black Twig Pickers and The Accidental.
One of its latest releases is the new album by English folk/avant artist Alexander Tucker, who plays in Ireland this week. I say folk – and folk fans will find plenty to like about the album – but really that’s only a small part of what’s going on in the music. Add kosmische, prog, tape manipulation and electronics, and you’re closer to the effect. That abstract list of genre tags won’t prepare you, though, for the warmth and accessibility of the album.
‘The glass axe’ shows shades of the blues guitar picking style of the late Bert Jansch, but ornamented with beautiful layered male-female harmonies, string melodies and a shimmering organ.
The pastoral drones and tape manipulation of ‘Mullioned view’ create the kind of sound you might imagine filling the air around Stonehenge a few centuries ago. The song manages the neat trick of sounding like the past and the future, at the same time.
Found sounds of bells and rainfall create an eerie atmosphere on ‘Window sill’ and you’ll find in ‘Andromeon’s’ electronic underpinning an air of kosmische, but mixed up with swirling Wicker Man stylings.
The title track features a beautiful, airy vocal floating above a swirling machine drone – a beguiling combination. And 7-minute closer ‘Rh’ is on one level a traditional song of praise, of love, but its psychedelic undertow (more oscillating drones) gives it intriguing depth.
Honestly, while retaining a great feeling of strangeness, this music is still suitable for rocking a small child to sleep with.
*Incidentally, James Blackshaw has released on Michael Gira’s Young Gods label in the past and I have it on good authority (Albert in Plugd) that he is brilliant live, which should be good enough for anyone.
Plugd & Triskel presents
Alexander Tucker & James Blackshaw
Sat May 12th 8pm
Also The Unitarian Church, Dublin, May 11th, with Cian Nugent