US - New York - Full Moon 161 - 11/02/09
It seems like every Songline release demands a hell of a lot of listening time to absorb. Don't get me wrong - this is a good thing - but in our time of media oversaturation and free mp3 downloads, it takes some effort to sit down and immerse yourself in a demanding album. In the case of Ryan Blotnick's Everything Forgets, what you've got is essentially a double album. Blotnick is a self-professed vinyl freak, and wanted to present this album as two distinct halves. And take it from me: you'll want to listen to this pair of nuanced epics with a break in-between.
As a guitarist I'm less drawn to jazz guitar than many other styles. I tend to favour FX-drenched players who stretch the boundaries of what a guitar can sound like. In the case of Ryan Blotnick, he doesn't try and make his hollow-body Gibson sound like anything other than a guitar - albeit played with exquisite sensitivity and melodic nous. When jazz guitar is played this well, even non-fans of jazz guitar should sit up and take notice.
This is partly because in the case of songs like 'Mansell', 'Mainstream' (parts I and II) and 'Ned Ferm', the trio of guitar, bass and drums has one foot in instrumental rock, weaving beautiful melodic patterns with plenty of atmosphere and approachability. There are also ambient interludes and half-songs dotted
throughout the album that give the listener breathing space, so when you're cast headlong into some knotty improvisation, you feel prepared.
Indeed, it's this balance between composition and improvisation that marks Everything Forgets as such an engrossing listen. There's ever the feeling that the musicians are playing off each other, exploring the spaces around the sound, interacting in a very natural and sensitive way. It's a joy to hear. It's
certainly made me keen to hear Blotnick's 2007 debut Music Needs You. And - who'd have thought? - all this might turn me into a fan of jazz guitar after all...
Copyright © 2009 Tim Clarke