James Blackshaw

All Is Falling

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All Is Falling was the first of James Blackshaw's albums on which he played electric 12-string guitar. But while earlier efforts of his drew comparisons to vintage folk guitarists, this is far from folk-rock, and indeed so far from folk or rock that it might not be appropriate to even categorize it as popular music. Blackshaw also plays piano, glockenspiel, and percussion on the record, though when he does use 12-string electric guitar, it's not heavily amplified. The eight largely instrumental pieces (voices are heard counting at one point) on the 45-minute CD -- divided into tracks plainly titled "Part 1," "Part 2," and so on up to "Part 8" -- are much more like a classical work than a folk one, performed with considerable assistance from other musicians on violin, cello, flute, alto saxophone, and glockenspiel. While not exactly repetitive or minimal, the pieces often feature circular riffs that create a trance-like mood. Some of the "Part 2" will bring to mind the classical-oriented pieces of early Sandy Bull, but when the buildup of other instruments becomes intense, the mood is that of forceful, if exceedingly somber, contemporary chamber music. Never is that more apparent than at the end of "Part 7," where eerie descending tones call to mind the sound of fire engines fading into the distance. The unremitting earnestness of the textures make it something that listeners might not be eager to digest all at once if they're not in a contemplative state of mind. But it's an admirably varied recording that can be regarded as a serious instrumental composition, and not primarily as instrumental guitar music.

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