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Ben Chasny & Rick Tomlinson
Waves Daniel Hignell , July 6th, 2023 08:01

What do you get when you cross Six Organs of Admittance and Voice of the Seven Woods? Something, apparently, rather lovely, finds Daniel Hignell

It turns out we can have nice things after all. As if to prove the point, Ben Chasny and Rick Tomlinson have produced this achingly pleasant offering of fragile, wistful guitar-work. The astutely-titled Waves is just that: a delicate, bubbling brook of interweaving strings flowing, without urgency, to some distant and foreign sea. Whilst by no means a radical shift in its composers respective repertoires, this is very much at the sparser end of certainly Chasny’s spectrum. Imagine Six Organs of Admittance with 90% of the parts removed. If not improvised then at the least composed quickly, the six tracks drift together in a dream-like manner, their inherent simplicity buoyed by the beauty of their performance.

Meandering plucks and lazy strums dance from player to player, before settling down into trance-like arpeggiations, long sections where the only perceivable changes are the slight variations in a persistently twanged string. It’s this subtle, emerging variance that make tracks like the nine-minute ‘Wait For Low Tide’ so enticing, a work more concerned with the casual exploration of a set sonic horizon than with structure or song.

It’s all very lovely stuff, leaning on the more abstract elements of the British folk tradition as well as the avant-garde stylings of Tomlinson’s solo work, a minimalist wash of picked strings and cyclic rhythms. Only the fifth track, ‘Paths of Ocean Currents and Wind Belts’, cuts against the grain in this regard, a mellow, warbling drone that neatly balances the already placid tone of the album as a whole.

Waves constitutes a somewhat enlivening listen, an album whose strength lies in the subtle and the ponderous. If at times it sounds like two guitarists jamming it out in the living room (which in fairness, it probably is), such a lack of pretension is charming. ‘Ambient’ has become a fairly loaded term over the last few years, but this is an album heavy on the ambience, compositionally akin to the sort of furniture music championed by Erik Satie. If you’re looking for something to grab you, this is unlikely to be it; Waves offers instead a gentle bath, a subtle immersion in the deep end.