This is not your father's John Fahey. Recorded late in his life and produced by Jim O'Rourke, this is one of the more overtly experimental albums in the Fahey catalog and also one of the most fascinatingly beautiful. The opening cut, "Sharks," begins like a solo Glenn Branca performance, all high volume, reverbed strums, and feedback, wrenched bitterly from his guitar before allowing a brief portion of "traditional" picking which, in this context, sounds as though lifted from a dream. The equally dreamy "Planaria" features loosely tuned, deeply gorgeous arpeggios (with more than a nod to Harry Partch) laid over tapes of Balinese gamelan ensembles. Though Fahey had long been experimenting with tape collages and other effects, one gets the strong impression that O'Rourke's presence served to bring these elements to the fore; the subaqueous sounds on "Eels," for example, would not sound out of place on many an O'Rourke recording. Only the concluding "Juana," a relatively cheery number with Spanish echoes, is played in a straightforward manner. Fahey fans who really appreciate the man as well as the music owe it to themselves to hear all aspects of his work, and Womblife is one of the finest releases documenting his more explorative side. Highly recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick