Harris Newman
(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Non-Sequiturs (2003) , 6.5/10
Accidents with Nature and Each Other (2005), 7/10
Triple Burner (2006), 6/10
Decorated (2007), 5.5/10
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Montreal (Canada) guitarist Harris Newman is a humbler but more poetic Steffan Basho-Junghans whose Non-Sequiturs (Strange Attractors, 2003) is a fresco of instrumental acoustic country vignettes (accompanied only by Godspeed You Black Emperor's percussionist and guitarist Bruce Cawdron). The majority are evocative, bittersweet and sometimes pensive, in the vein of Leo Kottke (Around About Thirty-Six, Sometimes a Bad Attitude is All it Takes, Trick Quesion, Throwing the Goat). They often transcend the style by matching breath-taking fingerpicking, melodic appeal and lyrical vision (the magnificent quasi-raga of Bitten, worthy of Sandy Bull, and occasionally merge different styles in one meditation (bluesy guitar, exotic percussions and jazzy drums The Bullheaded Stranger, the plaintive, and, best of all, the ironic and sprightly ragtime/bluegrass fusion of The Pyramids with a fratic charleston-like coda). A key ingredient is the blues, whether the slow, nocturnal variant of I Fought the Lottery or the fast, quasi-bluegrass fusion of Fearal Blues.
Towering over all the tracks is the 15-minute Forest for the Trees, by far the most tortuous and adventurous. It begins as a dilapidated country tune, played in a casual, detached manner. Then, as the percussions kick in, it comes alive, but it somehow refuses to completely coalesce around a theme or a logic, and remains a loose sequence of tones, a much more abstract affair than the shorter (and very earthly) tracks. It feels like a long, careful preparation for something that never happens. The last notes are as cryptic as the first ones.

By comparison with his first album, Accidents with Nature and Each Other (Strange Attractors, 2005) is pure bliss. The Butcher's Block and Lords and Ladies bridge his two masters, oscillating between John Fahey's ecstatic ragas and Leo Kottke's rural vignettes, keeping a sort of equal distance between the abstract and the real. This calculated balance of brainy and emotional states of minds is Harris' trademark. But the real show is in the way Newman keeps the listener off guard, and usually despite a very low-key presentation. Cloud City and Out of Sorts are crescendos of chirping and chiming that continuously shift timbre. The hyperkinetic boogie melody of Continental Drift and the frantic, slightly out-of-tune blues of A Thousand Stolen Blankets explore unstable psychologies. The haunting noises of It's A Trap (his most spectacular achievement in the realm of supernatural guitar style) opens the gate of the psychedelic languor of Lake Shore Drive, lulled by dissonant glissandos and softly dripping notes. The album closes in a downcast mode, with Accidents and Stopgap Measure that seem aimed at merely repeating the same quiet pattern over and over, and with Driving All Night, a seductive, evocative "song" that abandons all experiments for a warm and laid-back melodic fantasy overflowing with delicate emotions, and possibly his artistic peak.

Triple Burner (Madrona, 2006) was a duet between Harris Newman and percussionist Bruce Cawdron devoted to atmospheric, moody pieces and culminating with the 13-minute The Pulse Of Park Ex.

Decorated (2007) was a subdued revisitation of his favorite ideas. A lack of ambition made it less essential than its predecessors.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Antonio Buono)

Il chitarrista Harris Newman, da Montreal (Canada), è un più umile ma più poetico Steffan Basho-Junghans, il cui Non-Sequiturs (Strange Attractors, 2003) è un affresco di vignette strumentali di country acustico (accompagnato solo dal percussionista e chitarrista dei Godspeed You Black Emperor Bruce Cawdron). La maggior parte di queste sono evocative, agrodolci e talvolta malinconiche nella vena di Leo Kottke (Around About Thirty-Six, Sometimes a Bad Attitude is All it Takes, Trick Quesion, Throwing the Goat). Spesso trascendono lo stile attraverso fingerpinking da togliere il fiato, fascino melodico e visioni liriche (il magnifico quasi raga di Bitten, degno di Sandy Bull), e talvolta uniscono stili diversi in un’unica meditazione (chitarra blues, percussioni esotiche e batteria jazzata in The Bullheaded Stranger, e, la migliore di tutte, l’ironica e briosa fusione ragtime/bluegrass di The Pyramids, con una delirante coda di charleston). Un ingrediente chiave è il blues, sia in una variante lenta, notturna (I Fought the Lottery), che in una veloce, quasi bluegrass (Fearal Blues). A dominare su tutte le tracce è Forest for the Trees (15 minuti), di gran lunga la più tortuosa e avventurosa. Parte con una funesta melodia country, eseguita in maniera casuale e spassionata. Poi quando le percussioni incalzano, la canzone si anima, ma si rifiuta comunque di saldarsi attorno a un tema o a una logica, e rimane una libera sequenza di toni, molto più astratti che nei brani brevi (e parecchio terreni). Sembra solo una lunga, accurata preparazione a qualcosa che non accade mai. Le note finali sono criptiche come quelle di apertura.

Rispetto al primo disco, Accidents with Nature and Each Other (Strange Attractors, 2005) è pura gioia.

The Butcher's Block e Lords and Ladies si ricollegano ai suoi due maestri, in quanto oscillano tra i raga estatici di John Fahey e le vignette rurali di Leo Kottke, mantenendo una sorta di equa distanza tra l’astratto e il reale. Questo equilibrio calcolato di stati razionali ed emotivi della mente è il marchio di Newman.

Cloud City e Out of Sorts sono crescendo di cinguettii e campanelli che cambiano timbro in continuazione. L’ipercinetica melodia boogie di Continental Drift e il convulso, lievemente fuori tono blues di A Thousand Stolen Blankets esplorano stati psicologici instabili. Gli ossessionanti rumori di It's A Trap (il suo risultato più spettacolare nel regno dello stile soprannaturale alla chitarra) precedono il languore psichedelico di Lake Shore Drive, cullata da glissando dissonanti e note che colano delicatamente. L’album si chiude in maniera abbattuta, con Accidents and Stopgap Measure che sembra mirare alla mera ripetizione dello stesso pattern sommesso, e con Driving All Night, una seducente, evocativa "canzone" che rinuncia a tutti gli esperimenti in favore di una calda fantasia melodica laid-back che trabocca di delicate emozioni, forse il suo picco artistico.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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