Pared-down, guitar-led folk, blues and country instrumentals that could be film soundtracks – beautiful, yet occasionally unsettling.
Cinematic is an overused term in music reviewing but in the case of Portland-based guitarist Marisa Anderson’s latest instrumental record, ‘Still, Here’, it’s really hard to find another word to describe it.
From the off, with ‘In Dark Water’, we’re plunged into film soundtrack-like territory, with brooding and spectral folk-blues, as fingerpicked guitar accompanies a minimalist, droning and melancholy synth. You can imagine the music being played over footage of wintry, wild moorland, imposing mountains and black lakes.
Second track, ‘The Fire This Time’ is even more unsettling – based around a ‘propulsive acoustic ostinato’ – apparently, it’s a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch – and moody pedal steel. Somewhere in the background lurks the sound of sirens from the street near Anderson’s studio, which only adds to the eerie, late-night atmosphere.
‘Night Air’ is lighter, with a hypnotic acoustic guitar motif and piano chords, while ‘Waking’ is pretty and folky, with shades of Bert Jansch. The title of ‘The Crack Where The Light Gets In’ tells you all you need to know about the track mood-wise, and the Spanish-flavoured ‘La Llorona’ – named after a Hispanic-American mythical vengeful ghost – pairs a nylon string acoustic with an electric guitar, to dramatic effect.
The record ends with a gorgeous version of the traditional song, ‘Beat The Drum Slowly’, which has a warm, country-folk feel that nicely contrasts with the moodiness of the album’s first few opening instrumentals.
Made while Anderson was away from the road for the longest stretch of her career, ‘Still, Here’ is strange, haunting, intimate, otherworldly, sometimes disturbing and often beautiful, but always stunning. A wonderful record – the perfect musical accompaniment for those long winter nights ahead.