James Blackshaw James BlackshawAll Is Falling
“All Is Falling” is the new (and ninth) example of the technique of the six (or twelve) chords that someone who is around thirty and who has spent years shut up in a room practicing twelve hours a day can acquire. But this isn’t just any technique. The uninhibited experimentation that James Blackshaw works with is pure acoustic avant-garde. And listening to him doing topographic and in-depth exercises in guitar sounds, in his present work, he embraces the steep cliffs of electro-acoustic music for the first time in his career.
Does one notice any evolution? Although the electric bass is not a constant, it is a spark that brings the avant-folk sound closer to an almost orchestral view (that we can almost perceive as the flow of consciousness), due mostly to the use of the techniques discovered by Steve Reich (that exhibitionist of minimalism), such as, for example the effects of repeat phasing . And the thing is that in the world of experimentation, boundaries are blurred and one can listen to anything from laboratory creations (let’s say it clearly: music that cannot be sold beyond its conceptual value. If not, listen to “I’m Sitting in a Room”) to new age efforts that seem like cirrocumulus clouds of dispersed, transparent notes carried by the wind, leaving no trace behind them other than a pretty drawing on paper ( Michael Hedges at the calmer end, and a string of noisy virtuosos, like Joe Satriani, at the other end, for example). James Blackshaw, has effectively evolved towards eight parts of folk music rolled up like a pizza dough about as thick as Amy Winehouse’s hairdo, and it seems that in reality he has given us a package of chamber music. Thanks in part to his collaborators, Charlotte Glasson (violin and flute), Fran Bury (glockenspiel, piano, and voices), and Daniel Madav (cello), but especially to a composing ability that knocks over the Defenders of the Ethereal with its arpeggios mixed with slight variations (tremendous piano in “Part 1”), he shows them that one can move people with basic elements, as long as you understand that the underlying structure is like the surface of a microchip, complex and deceiving, unless you have a microscope on hand. In his own way, Andrés Segovia revolutionised the way the Spanish guitar is played, and although he performed old monsters (Bach, for example), compassion, beauty, and cruelty came out of his fingers in equal parts. Blackshaw at times continues vindicating himself in this respect (listen to the sweet sample “Part 2” and the slightly more variable “Part 3”), but he also focuses on the variety of sounds (from “Part 4” and increasing to “Part 6”), and ends up letting himself go completely in the almost-symphonic “Part 7”, a compendium of what was heard before, and the conclusive, ambiental, as if it were born from a machine “Part 8”.
Don’t forget that John Fahey’s fingering technique, the submission of the twelve chords to Robbie Basho, or the rough side of Glenn Branca and Rhys Catham (we should look into the hidden links between no-wave and avant-folk, it might be an epiphany), as well as the already-mentioned Steve Reich and his merry band of minimalist friends, might all fall easily into the sack of laboratory experiments only suitable for freaks. Fortunately, however, we’ll always have artists like Blackshaw who, despite their virtuosity, understand the whole physical-mechanical process of musical creation as a means for transmitting something. In the end, new sounds and techniques go by with the news, and will always remain inside the four walls of a conservatory.
James Blackshaw - part 3
James Blackshaw - Part 6