I’ve been missing from Jeff Gburek’s sonic microcosm for several years after the excellent Red Rose For The Sinking Ship on Triple Bath, and am seizing the chance to declare that – besides this new CD – my intention is revisiting some of the material he had published in the meantime. Initially, The Watermark might “just” resemble an album entirely revolving around an electrified acoustic guitar, indeed the most evident colouration with its clearly perceivable piezoelectric essence. However, repeated listens let us realize about the existence of hundreds of semi-disguised elements and ear-deceiving layers. What could appear as an evolved, if moderately stained prolongation of the Robbie Basho meditative canon to a superficial audience results instead in a series of tracks depicting various stages of an acousmatic journey, with all the implications that a complex mind can conceive (not completely graspable beyond the recording’s textural cloth – that’s a rule of this artist’s game).
The experience of a composer is gauged by how apparently insignificant details are deployed, and by the ability of influencing the music’s flow through those choices. The actual winning card is the juxtaposition of cleanness and deformation informing the large part of these pieces (which include a slow-as-snail, nearly stoned version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” sung by Anastasia Galkina, a homage to Jeff’s late father who used to love that tune). Certain progressions may sound uncomplicated, but the mixture of homespun echoes, decaying pianos, exotic instruments (Joseph Angelo plays sitar on the fourth chapter), real-time computer manipulation and by what Gburek calls “gnomic voices” (himself via a mouth-held microphone) contributes to an eeriness that grows parallel to the sense of familiarity. When he adds the bass recorder (*) to the palette in the seventh movement, our connection with the primary sensations dictated by a raw purity becomes stronger.
All in all, a fascinating disc needing utmost attention.
(* Note to the still-unaware Italians: a “recorder” is not a tape machine in this case, but the instrument we refer to as “flauto dolce”).