Marisa Anderson “Cloud Corner” (Independent, 2018)

Marisa Anderson is a Portland based guitarist with several previous albums to her name, whose latest release ‘Cloud Corner‘ continues along a path of guitar instrumental pictures in sound. Here Marisa Anderson has found herself wandering into the world of Taureg style guitar playing, as exemplified by Tinariwen, using this to produce a series of mostly quiet and contemplative pieces which drift hypnotically along. There’s a common feature of a drone-like rhythm backing up an intricate and oft repeated melody line, particularly across the first half of the album. It’s a brave decision to strip out guitar parts that rely for their impact on repetition, but it’s noticeable that ‘Lift‘ is a more listenable track because there’s a few more instruments on it.

A big exception to this adopted style is the track ‘Sant Feliu de Guixola’, which was a self-imposed challenge piece which Marisa Anderson produced after mulling over a post-gig criticism from a fan to the effect that she never wrote any happy tunes. It’s certainly the liveliest track on ‘Cloud Corner’, and sits more firmly in a Western folk music tradition. The almost Andelucian styling of ‘Sun Song‘ provides another high point on the album.

Marisa Anderson is clearly a skilful guitarist – the question is as to how much the listener might enjoy what are fairly minimalist and, on the surface, not that dissimilar sounding tracks. Is this music that’ll grab you by the ears? Probably not. Is this music that might play happily in the background? Probably yes. Is ‘Cloud Corner‘ then not much more than the guitar equivalent of the oh so popular ‘ambient piano‘ genre? For more than half the album that is exactly what it is – the other half of the album is more or less interesting guitar noodling, a feeling that is emphasized by the hard cuts at the start and end of a couple of the tunes that suggest the preservation of the good bit in an extended improvisation. Whether or not that is fair, or even true, is difficult to say – perhaps it’s safer to state that Marisa Anderson is not a huge fan of the fade-out.

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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