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Ryan Dugre’s compositions get bigger without losing their style

Last updated on January 8, 2021

Three Rivers is guitarist/composer Ryan Dugré‘s most expansive work, as it grows his sonic palette from pieces zoomed in on guitar musings to fully-arranged neo-classical compositions. The abstract, austere guitar work of his prior efforts remains in the back half of the record; the guitar work of the front half of the record is surrounded by arrangements that sometimes accentuate (“Powder Rains”, “Shining”) and sometimes temper (“Living Language”) the atypical melodies and patterns.

Even in the expanded arrangements that open the record, few of these tracks seem to be going for the big move or the large score.The sprightly “Old Hotel” uses subtle percussion and keys to create one of the most easygoing and, dare I say it, poppy work of his oeuvre. It’s chipper in a stylized, Wes Anderson-esque way. “Shining” expands his demonstrated skillset with a piano-based work; he develops his patterned, atypical melodic sense with two hands instead of one.

A rare instance of big thinking is single “Foxglove,” where the near-jubilant second movement certainly aims for the stars.”Big Pictures Wide Open Spaces” is a transitional song that has a recognizably Dugré opening solo guitar bit before gently launching one of the most enveloping arrangements of the album via subtle string (or maybe delicate synth?) textures.

After “Big Pictures,” “Other Minds” then kicks off five solo works that are most like his previous work. Each feature minimized arrangements or totally solo guitar performances. These are the elegant, subtly angular, unexpected-turns work I’ve come to expect from Dugré. The moods are ambivalent and structured; these are not sad pieces, but neither are they explicitly optimistic. Tunes like closer “Glace Bay” (those subtle textures again, swoon) come from a pensive place.

Dugré knows how to create sonically and intellectually compelling work with a minimum of pieces attached. While he picks up a few more instruments this time, his command of small but impactful compositions is still top-shelf.