Review of Quite A Way Away [12k1070]

Wajobu (US)

More beautiful music to disappear into, discovered this time by an association with a record label that I have quickly come to admire a great deal, 12k. There is quite a story behind this album by Gareth Dickson and it is told best, right here:

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The comparisons to the sound, the voice and the music are immediate: Nick Drake, Bert Jansch and others, yet there are some distinct differences, some technological and some musical. I speculate that some of the tunings and picking are similar to techniques used by Nick Drake (whose work I am far more familiar with), but there are similarities to another guitarist I admire a great deal, Anthony Phillips (“Geese and the Ghost”, many others, and collaborations with Harry Williamson: “Tarka” & “Gypsy Suite”).

With the exception of instrumental piece “Happy Easters”, each song starts with an extended introduction on the guitar. It sets the mood, the color, space and even establishes a sonic incantation for the coming lyrics (much of which are of love, longing and searching).

The recordings have incredible depth (considering they are classified as “lo-fi”). I’m not sure how the album was engineered, processed or mic’ed, but there are some guitar sound similarities to Neil Young’s recent album “Le Noise” that was produced and engineered by Daniel Lanois. In “Quite A Way Away” the guitar sounds as an orchestra (whether strings are muted or being played at their fullest at the heart of the guitar). The instrumentation is as stark as Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” yet the sound is as full as “Five Leaves Left” or “Bryter Layter”—so wonderful to hear.

“Happy Easters”, to me, is very strongly reminiscent of the acoustic sections of Anthony Phillips’ “Scottish Suite” as well as other pieces from his second “Private Parts and Pieces” series of albums. Quite fitting, since Gareth Dickson is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and his voice also reveals his roots elsewhere on the album.

This is not an album of songs with guitar accompaniment nor is it a guitar album with vocals. Gareth Dickson combines both and reaches into the sonorous depths to create a passionate, deeply emotional and soulful music.

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