Over great reliance on experimentation makes for a mostly unhappy blend of instrumental tracks despite Winter’s capable contributions on guitar.
Eli Winter is a Chicago-based composer and guitarist, and this six-track album brings him together with Cameron Knowler and Ryley Walker on guitars, Sam Webster on pedal steel, Jordan Reyes on synthesizers, Tyler Damon on percussion, David Grubbs on harmonium, Jamie Brown on flugelhorn, Whitney Johnson on viola, Liz Downing on bowed banjo and harmonies, and Guilia Chiappetta on harmonies. An eclectic mix with promise, ambition is always to be applauded, but this collaborative set of instrumental tracks only finds the blend it seeks on the closing track ‘Unbecoming’.
Opening track ‘For a Chisos Bluebonnet’ opens with melodic acoustic guitar, accompanied by steel guitar and a second guitar, up-tempo from the off, but from the moment the full percussion kit enters the mix the clarity and direction of the track are lost, with a sense of unease to be repeated elsewhere on the album, as the different musical elements seem to be fighting, not allying.
‘No Fear’ is an unsettling improvisation, with the creation of a dystopian atmosphere taking front of stage over musicality, with echoes of the wilder excesses of prog rock, closing on abruptly ended feedback.
‘Brain on Ice’ with its gently melodic opening comes as a welcome relief, and displays a greater understanding between percussion and acoustic and steel guitars than elsewhere in the collection.
The closing track ‘Unbecoming’ is comfortably the highlight of the album, with an atmospheric harmonium intro, leading into Winter’s 12-string guitar allied with Johnson’s viola, though at over 8 minutes it has scope for more dynamic development, a criticism which could be levelled at much of the collection.
The sum is less than the parts in this somewhat disjointed instrumental album.
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