JAMES BLACKSHAW/THE GLASS BEAD GAME/ReviewIt is a heady, intellectual album, meant to be studied and contemplated as much as it is to be heard, and there is an incredible depth and beauty to it.
James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game
released by Young God Records on 26 May 2009
data : 5 tracks . 49:30 run time . www.myspace.com/jamesblackshaw
reviewed by : Paul Morin
genre : folk
Virtuoso James Blackshaw plays what can loosely be defined as folk music, though the dexterity and stamina with which he attacks a 12-string guitar and piano, giving the feel of a classical recital rather than any images of A Mighty Wind which are usually conjured by that word. It is a heady, intellectual album, meant to be studied and contemplated as much as it is to be heard, and there is an incredible depth and beauty to it. The pieces are generally dark and somber, though not bleak and opaque so much as they are striking and reflective. Strings, woodwinds, and/or light vocals (supplied by Current 93 veterans Joolie Wood and John Contreras) lay down a backdrop of harmonic changes while his fingers dance up and down the instrument in arpeggiated figures for lengthy workouts (one song, for example, clocks in at almost 20 minutes). While the droning over seemingly endless solos are reminiscent of a classical Indian raga, the repetitions of patterns recall Philip Glass, as minimally stated figures repeat themselves with increasing complexity and insistency as the songs wear on in an almost mad fever of performance. On repeated listens, subtle nuances missed the first time around pop out and announce themselves. Put simply, the music is rich, dynamic and played with an incredible passion and intensity. John Fahey, Chopin's Preludes and Steve Hackett's work with early Genesis also come to mind, though Blackshaw has a voice all his own, utterly unique and profound. Hand chosen and promoted for this release by self-described "fan" Michael Gira (Swans, Angels of Light), this is truly an amazing performer to keep an eye on.