Various Artists
Garden of Forking Paths
Important
162
2008
****

It's strange, and kind of unfortunate, that
an album like this would be so lacking in
explanatory liner notes. Those without the
benefit of a press kit would likely never know,
for example, that the multitracked instrument
being played by {Chieko Mori} is a koto (though
it's much easier to tell on that same artist's
gorgeous closing track, which features a multilayered
pentatonic melody and a playing style that is much more
traditional and recognizable). The second selection
features producer and compiler {James Blackshaw} on
acoustic twelve-string guitar, and is also very
beautiful - {$Blackshaw}'s melodic approach is
quite idiosyncratic, though it does initially
make explicit reference to Indian modal melodies before
going off in its own glistening, brilliant direction.
{Helena Espvall}'s {"Home of Shadows and Whirlwinds"}
is a dark and eerie piece for solo cello, featuring
lots of gasping harmonics; {Jozef van Wissem}'s {"The
Mirror of Eternal Light"} is a slow and contemplative
piece for Renaissance lute that has nothing really to
do with Renaissance music but does sound like something
{Harold Budd} might have written if he had lived in
Elizabethan times.
To call {van Wissem}'s music minimalism would be
inaccurate, but it holds many of the same attractions
as {Brian Eno}'s early ambient work.
Overall, this is a lovely and rewarding album that
challenges the ear without repelling it. Highly
recommended.