James Blackshaw: 12-string guitar; Lubomyr Melnyk: piano
Born from a combination of utter esteem (Blackshaw considers Melnyk a fundamental inspiration) and bona fide fellow feeling (Melnyk telling Blackshaw, after seeing him in performance, that he had “invented continuous music for the guitar” in reference to his own piano style), The Watchers is an album of earnest – and frequently honeyed – consonance expanded, if properly listened at consistent volume, by chordal vapors constituting the only authentic richness of the whole enterprise, the fruit of improvisations revolving around uncomplicated harmonic progressions recorded at London’s Vortex without an audience. It was an attempt that had to be made, ultimately not harmful – on the contrary, it keeps you snug and warm, transmitting an immediate perception of nerve decompression (must be the upper partials…). Still, aside from a few gentle superimpositions, it’s not something that should be considered more than an affable gesture by a musician whose technical grade and overall artistic depth is clearly superior to the other’s, as evidenced by a couple of out-of-tune twangs sticking out like sore thumbs as the pair looks for a common ground during their intertwining arpeggios. This, rather ironically, occurs during “Venant”, namely the lone track that stands a little higher thanks to its pleasant rhythmic propulsion differentiating it from the three remaining pieces on offer. Regardless, I stay with my initial ideas: Melnyk’s solitary production offers plenty, whereas Blackshaw is a somewhat overrated minimalist of the guitar whose improvisational skills, as he himself acknowledges, are insufficient. Now forget about everything this senescent magpie just said, and get ready for the panegyrics everywhere else.