Markus Reuter

Trepanation

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Trepanation (an ancient medical practice that involves drilling holes in the skull) is an intensely unpleasant title for what turns out to be an unremittingly beautiful album. Austrian guitarist Markus Reuter has perfected a style of lush, layered, complicated process composition that combines surfaces of straightforward beauty with hidden depths of complexity and sometimes a richly forbidding darkness. Consider, for example, "Preparation," which takes ambient guitar sounds and an altered vocal sample that come together to evoke Bill Nelson at his most gnostic (in particular, the Chance Encounters in the Garden of Light album). But lurking underneath that top layer of soothing prettiness is a quietly heaving minor-key chord progression that gently undermines the whole mood of spiritual contemplation with something a bit more troubling. The very long "3-4 Days Before the Echo" and "Beat" are both primarily characterized by shimmering abstraction, while "No Part of Me Could Summon a Voice" combines something that sounds like electronically generated overtone singing with samples of kids playing in a sprinkler -- here the effect is more like the guitar-plus-found-sound approach of Fred Frith's early solo work. The album ends with the slow-developing and utterly gorgeous "Number of the Mind," which leaves the mental palate clean and refreshed.

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