Last updated on November 12, 2021
If I Don’t See You Again – BPMoore. BPMoore’s compositions fuse chamber orchestral work with indie rock aesthetics. The delicate strings and piano of opener “Hold Your Own” are infused with a blitz of energy via a busy-groove live drum kit. “First Light,” “Another World,” “Call Ended,” and more reiterate this pattern, bringing energy to beauty in moving ways. The far end of this effort is either “Those Fields When We Were Young” (which is almost a dance-rock song) or “A Lifetime Rolls By” (which culminates in cymbal mashing rock drums).
It’s not all drums (although that’s a big theme). “Art is Her Reflection” is a speedy tune that could have had percussion but works perfectly fine without it. “Paid Respects” turns lovely piano and strings orchestration into an Album Leaf-esque post-rock tune with subtle electronic pulse. Ultimately, this record is a sensational mix of lush composition and high-drama percussion theatrics. I love it. Highly recommended.
Urban Driftwood – Yasmin Williams. Williams’ intricate, complex guitar compositions are impressive in their speed and motion. Yet for all the immense technical skill (“Swift Breeze,” for instance, is mind bending), these compositions are persistently melodic, cinematic, and evocative. Opener “Sunshowers” does feel like the sun breaking through while the rain is still going: there’s an overall sense of brightness while one of the picking patterns sounds like rain hitting pavement. The herky-jerky melody of “Dragonfly” indeed calls to mind the zigzag flying patterns of the titular insect.
Even when Williams isn’t painting sonic pictures from the title of songs, the wide-screen nature of these works is prominent. “Juvenescence” is an elegant, rolling rumination; “Jarabi” features an instrument that sounds like a kalimba to intertwine with Williams’ playing. Other collaborations are fruitful as well. “Adrift (feat. Taryn Wood)” melds Williams’ cascading guitar with powerful cello for a satisfying experience. The title track features Amadou Kouyate on percussion; Kouyate allows Williams to focus on delivering the mesmerizing guitar notes instead of providing both the percussion and notes (as is common). It’s a highlight and an excellent choice as the title of the collection.
It’s a rare feat to deliver a work of technical brilliance that is also heartwarming, but Williams has achieved it here. Highly recommended.
Timber – Bryan Rahija. Rahija is something like the fourth member of North Carolina indie-pop/indie-folk band Bombadil, so it’s not surprising that their quirky indie-pop melodies find their way into Timber. The debut collection of acoustic guitar pieces from Rahija literally includes instrumental versions of several tracks off the Bombadil record Fences: “Everywhere But Up” is a charming version of “Binoculars,” “Nothing’s Fifty-Fifty” is a gorgeous setting of “Math and Love,” and the brilliant “Peacocks in Fur” is a key-changed version of “Not Those Kind of People.” Fans of Bombadil will find those tracks particularly interesting–I find “Nothing’s Fifty-Fifty” to be more compelling than the originally released version (and I like the original very much).
Beyond those tracks, Rahija shows off a fusion of indie-pop charm and folk guitar speediness. “Silent Advance” leans in on the indie-pop side, while “Three-Legged Buddha” shows off his chops for the more folky side. Standout “Eight of Wands” is the best of both worlds, amping up the mostly-solo pieces into multiply-tracked guitar lines with beautifully droning accompaniment and subtle percussion for the most fully realized piece here. I’d love to see more arrangements on his next album, as the tracks sparkle and shine most when the guitar is surrounding by complementary pieces.