Monk

Blink

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    5
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Monk's third album, Blink, is more of an odds-and-ends collection than a fully conceptualized studio album. Most of the tracks were recorded live, not in concerts but on radio broadcasts. The band's singer/songwriter/guitarist/founder Ric Hordinski considered naming the album "Warts and All" because of the decidedly raw quality of the performances, which have not received the digital airbrushing applied to many live albums. Blink was not intended to be an introduction for the previously uninitiated. It was compiled with faithful Monk followers in mind. On that level, it is a great success -- a treasure trove of novelty recordings that are sure to excite those already familiar with his mesmerizing ambient guitar work. In the opening tracks, Hordinski draws from his prior life as a powerhouse electric guitar-wielding version of "the thing" in Over the Rhine's fantastic four. The breezy acoustic guitar instrumental "Willoughby" and the radio-ready pop song "Circle of Quiet" have both been Monk-ified here, with the former performed on electric dobro and the latter transformed into an extended stratospherical guitar jam. Monk also joins Cry Cry Cry and Mary Black on a growing list of artists who have covered Ron Sexmith's "Speaking With the Angel." Despite Hordinski's admittedly rough vocal performance, it is a pleasure to find the beautifully crafted song wrapped luxuriously in one of his inimitable, reverberating sonic tapestries. That assessment can also be applied to the album as a whole, which plainly underscores both the artist's greatest strengths and his greatest weaknesses. Hordinski can't compete with vocalists like Sexsmith or Karen Bergquist, but his voice as a composer and guitarist is firmly established. Ever the innovator, Hordinski paints a vibrant new landscape with every song, even when he has already recorded it multiple times before. For all its want of polish, Blink is a captivating hour of music.