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Published: 2010/09/07
by Ron Hart

James Blackshaw
All is Falling

Young God

Over the course of an unprecedented eight albums in six short years, James Blackshaw has definitely proven his weight in gold as the prodigal son of his forefathers in British folk guitar through his innovative fusion of the classic fingerpicking of Bert Jansch and John Martyn, the raga spirituality of Robbie Basho and the experimental drone sounds of his upbringing zoning out to the likes of Jackie O Motherfucker and Current 93, a group whom the young 12-string guitarist and pianist has worked with in the past. For his ninth title and second release on Swans czar Michael Gira’s Young God label, however, Blackshaw tries his hand at an electric guitar, and the results are nothing short of the best work he has delivered yet.

Backed by a skeleton crew playing hushed sonic flourishes on percussion, violin, flute, alto saxophone, glockenspiel, cello and voice, All Is Falling is an eight-part suite of tonal intricacy imbued by some of the 29-year-old Englishman’s most defined playing to date, fully establishing himself as a composer fluent in the languages of both Philip Glass and John Fahey, evident in the circular patterns he shapes on the third and fourth parts of this cycle of sound. And while there are moments here that find Blackshaw allowing the waves of dissonance an electric 12-string can provide to fully envelop his performance, particularly on the 11:51-long siren-like crescendo that takes place during “Part 7,” he chooses not to allow the potential chaos of amplified release get the best of his art. Rather, he reins it in on “Part 8,” closing out with a reverberating series of organic sine waves that wouldn’t sound out of place in a beatless interlude on an Autechre album. Surely the word of James Blackshaw plugging in had certain purists crying heretic, but as All is Falling so prominently displays, this brilliant whippersnapper plays the electric just as serenely as that old acoustic of his.

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