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Jenks Miller: Spirit Signal

This review marks my third encounter with the always-prolific Jenks Miller. My last two encounters with him were for writing reviews first of Horseback's Half Blood and then of New Dominions, a split release with Locrian. It also happens that Miller is part of an alt-country group called Mount Moriah. I haven't heard any of their music yet, but I'm confident that I will before too long.

Honestly, I don't like everything I've heard by Miller. I do, however, greatly admire his minimalist and atmospheric approach to music. There's just something fascinating about the way he creates sound that is simultaneously cerebral and dream-like, ambient and psychedelic, a mental and aural journey through unknown spaces and places.

WithSpirit Signal, Miller's "first widely distributed solo release," the music is more stripped down and minimal than his work with Horseback. Even though it's not quite accurate, it's probably fair to consider this album a solo guitar album. I say this because Miller's guitar adds a smooth and welcome warmth to the ambient sounds, the feedback, and the noise that make up much of the background. Miller plays the guitar well, bringing a light touch to many of his melodic licks. Whereas some of his work with Horseback seems distant, even cold, the guitar on this album adds a perfect new dimension to the overall sound. Listeners discovering Miller for the first time should definitely start by listening to the title track and then "Through the Fog." Both these tracks offer a strong blend of mellow, bluesy, guitars with an unobtrusive background drone. These were my favorite tracks by far.

More ambitious listeners should check out the two slide guitar improvisations (tracks 1 and 2). I'd also recommend the last track, "Miró," a twenty minute excursion into sound. Unlike the other tracks, this one has some vocals. The vocals, though, do not perform lyrics. Instead, they make up part of the sound. At times, they sound ghost-like, much like the vocals on really old blues recordings. I'm pretty sure that "Miró" takes its name from the Spanish artist Joan Miró, a man whose work crossed over into surrealism. It's appropriate, I think, for Jenks Miller's explorations of the unconscious through music should meet up with Miró's own probing of similar psychic spaces.

This album takes a few spins before it starts to make complete sense. It will likely frustrate some listeners, but those who are patient and open-minded may find something new and fascinating here.

Track Listing:
1. Slide Guitar Improvisation in a Blues Style
2. Slide Guitar Improvisation in a Noise Style
3. By the Haw
4. Spirit Signal
5. Through the Fog
6. Miró

Added: August 30th 2013
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Label Page
Hits: 1843
Language: english

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