JAMES BLACKSHAW/THE GLASS BEAD GAME/ReviewThe Glass Bead Game is one of the year's best and most beautiful releases to date.
New Zealand Herald
BY Scott Kara
James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game
4:00AM Saturday August 8, 2009
Rating: * * * * *
At just five songs over nearly 50 minutes in total, The Glass Bead Game
could be mistaken for classical music - and the ebony and ivory maelstrom of
18-minute last track Arc is more akin to a set of Chopin preludes than
anything like folk, rock, or whatever genre guitar virtuoso James
Blackshaw's music might fit into.
But this bloke used to play in punk bands, and it shows in his gutsy yet
poised playing, and his simple yet inspired instrumental combinations. With
a 12-string guitar, a piano, and a bellowing harmonium (similar to an
accordian, only not as annoying), Blackshaw conjures up sprawling sonic
journeys that are tranquil and cinematic, but with brief and telling moments
of discord. On this, his seventh album, he is also joined by string and
Joolie Wood and Jon Contreras from British post-industrial experimental band
On opening track Cross his lush and elaborate guitaring is backed by a
beautifully incessant wheeze of harmonium, and later it's delicate and
sublime strings to the fore, before a mangled acoustic chord brings it to a
close. And while Fix is forlorn - with sad verging on soppy strings - you
somehow forgive the melancholy when it sounds this stunning.
Then there's the rollicking and ebbing piano masterpiece Arc which is the
perfect soundtrack to a log bobbing and lolling its way down a wending and
winding river as it negotiates the rapids effortlessly.
The Glass Bead Game is one of the year's best and most beautiful releases to