James Blackshaw’s on a mighty roll. He’s released a number of fine albums, but grab 2007’s The Cloud of Unknowing (especially), 2008’s piano-threaded Litany Of Echoes, and last year’s piano-and-string (and etc.) augmented The Glass Bead Game to hear the London guitar virtuoso/multi-instrumentalist at his best. Upping the ante, Blackshaw’s forthcoming eighth studio album All Is Falling, his second for Michael Gira’s Young God, is a swirling 45-minute song cycle that includes his first use of electric 12-string along with a heady mix of glockenspiel, piano, percussion, violin, counting voices, flute, alto saxophone, cello, etc. It’s his most orchestral work to date. It’s also best enjoyed in one full sitting, but things come to a head in “Part 7,” so you might as well dip your toe in during a climax (there are many). This is a 7-minute edit of the full 12-minute section.
Even if his press photos haven’t been updated, the label’s explanation of the shift from acoustic to electric, Dylan fans:
The seeds of this project were sown in the past few years while James was serving as guest guitarist with a friend’s group on tour. This was the first time he’d played electric guitar in nearly a decade. Blackshaw got unexpected pleasure and inspiration from the sheer volume involved, the way the different old valve amps he’d rent for each show would perform, and having to be more pro-active in his fretting; he noted that while a 12-string acoustic guitar “sings” or “plays itself,” that an electric guitar needs a lot more coaxing. James became curious as to how a 12-string electric guitar might sound in his own work and bought an Italia Rimini and a little Fender Superchamp.
The slimmer neck and the lighter string tension allowing him to play faster and to reach finger positions he’d previously found awkward. At the same time, James acquired a home-recording set up which allowed him to experiment with the arrangements for other instruments, and this became integral to how he wrote the piece with guitar taking a smaller role in the overall picture as a result. Both factors had a huge impact on the new music he was composing as well as the influence of post-No Wave maximalist guitar composers Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham.
All Is Falling is out 8/24 via Young God. Speaking of uncompromising songwriters, the label’s also releasing the new James Jackson Toth/Wooden Wand album Death Seat in October. Gira produced it.