Even more fractured and strange, if that's possible, than his slightly higher-profile solo releases, Talisman finds Alastair Galbraith deep into sonic exploration of curious, dank corners via his own brand of rock & roll. As is usually the case with his work, there's next to no percussion and only the subtlest suggestion of recurring rhythms, while the only guests this time out contribute extra guitar and, on "Black Flame," horn. "Black Flame" itself is actually one of the highlights of Talisman, with a strong, chugging central guitar, cymbal hits like rattling chains, and a dreamy sea shanty pace that stays steady even amid growing fuzz and clangor. Totaling 20 songs in 36 minutes, the tendency toward fragmentation is strong on Talisman, though Galbraith does have a knack for making even his shortest pieces -- like the 45-second "Xtra I" -- sound complete as performed. When Galbraith pulls out all the stops, the results balance neatly between relative accessibility and pure chaos -- "Cemetery Raga," featuring David Mitchell on extra guitar, is calm enough up front but has some just gone feedback backing everything up, sounding almost like metal being extruded forcibly. As for his violin, when it appears, the results can often be freaked out, to say the least. The soloing on "Mrs. Meggary" -- which actually makes up most of the song anyway -- and the creepy scrapes above the buzzing and shouts on "Policemen on Ether" make for a disturbed time. His choices for fairly conventional approaches, meanwhile, often work wonders. "Anais," which clocks in at over three minutes, is one of his loveliest numbers, overdubbed guitar chimes sounding a touch like fellow Kiwi Roy Montgomery with less effects; the addition of soft, sparkling keyboards and Galbraith's understated singing sets an entrancing overall mood.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett