Douglas McCombs has spent a lot of his profession crafting shapes within the shadows of his music, even on tasks the place he’s been a frontrunner. Because the longtime bassist of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day, in addition to the face of his rotating-collaborator car Brokeback and one-third of his new trio Black Duck alongside Charles Rumback and Bill MacKay, the bassist and guitarist makes a speciality of pulling elementary strings whereas usually lingering outdoors the foreground. On his first solo album below his personal title, VMAK<KOMBZ<<<DUGLAS<<6NDR7>>> (its busy title was pulled from considered one of McCombs’ many worldwide visas), he steps into that foreground with a wayward instrumental expedition that sacrifices not one of the string-pulling.
VMAK doesn’t fall into any typical solo-debut buckets. It’s no grand, renewed assertion of objective, nor a stripped-down, personally revealing dispatch from the guts. It doesn’t sound painstakingly composed; it’s utterly instrumental with a fair proportion of improvisation; and it options pals who’ve collaborated lots with McCombs through the years, together with Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake (for whom McCombs has toured as bassist) and James Elkington. In its spontaneous spirit, if not all the time its sound, VMAK slots comfortably alongside most of McCombs’ catalog.
The place VMAK stands aside is in the way it isolates and magnifies McCombs, who principally sticks to steer guitar right here. He steps into this function like a head chef with the entire kitchen to himself, desirous to mess around and experiment, but in addition to refine. VMAK is three tracks lengthy—the primary and final account for over 30 of the album’s 34 minutes—however feels extra like 5 – 6 distinct concepts. He cooks up one thing candy, one thing bitter, one thing bland however curious. The purpose isn’t to be immediately, familiarly appetizing, however McCombs makes certain to incorporate a few instantly scrumptious bites in between the much less savory, just-trying-stuff ones.
Like several courteous host, McCombs provides truthful warning with the very first notes on his electrical. He barges into opener “Two to Coolness” with a distorted belch of guitar squall, and away we go. There’s some deliberate humor to his greeting, but you image him performing it stone-faced; for McCombs, heedlessness within the inventive course of might be the spice of life. He blends the noise into some impressed ambling that finds area between a Eighties cop drama and a peaceable solo writing session in an empty storage. As Prekop and Calexico’s John Convertino—on modular sequencer and drums, respectively—be a part of for some staggered, lurching tip-toes over the melodic closing jiffy, the observe’s tone completes a full about-face. McCombs’ love for distractions and pivots then finds a recent outlet within the quick and candy, morning-dew acoustic guitar solo of the second observe, “Inexperienced Crown’s Step,” which strolls with light confidence and little predictability to its route.
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