If you thought Jimmy Wahlsteen's 181st Songs (here) was great, wait until you hear All Time High, a CD even more richly harmonic than its predecessor. Moreover, I thought it impossible, beyond the music, to get any cleaner and more sparkling a sound than Wahlsteen himself produced last time out, but, yow, was I ever mistaken! Just goes to show how much that extra smidgen of bandwidth and that last touch of exotic acumen can broaden out and even more luminously clarify what was already perfection. I'd venture to say this is pretty much the last word in recording, but Wahlsteen has a way of introducing something new each time he appears on the scene, so I'll content myself to just marvelling over the sonics for the moment and pass on to the playing.
As ever, the guitarist dwells in an enviable estate of positive outlook, irrepressible élan, and azurine thoughtfulness. Almost every song demonstrates that clearly while the pensive numbers, like Mindlessness, just kinda glow in the middle of a breathless moment suspended in memory and reflection. Catch, too, the subtle background welling up and then the overt and covert timbral shifts in the cut, follow how such things manifest many times in the disc, almost without a trace of announcing themselves, sliding in like spirit outflowing whisperingly from everywhere and nowhere. Hitched for Life is a wedding song written for his wife, a tune that possesses a certain traditional air while dancing within itself, a delight enticing the ear with decorous classicality and modernist inflections.
More than once in a number of places, a lightning-swift riff launches already complicated finger-picking above the melodies, mercurially contrasting what soon catches up to the impulse then drops back in tempo. Being a CandyRatter, Wahlsteen can play not only as though two or three people at once but polyrhthmically while doing so. I'll warn that there's dubbing going on this time around, but that's a caution accompanied with a grin of delight because I've been waiting to see what would happen when this label's daunting players decided to shed a bit of their immaculate purity and synch up. Well, as shown here, the result is as wondrous and headily complex as could be hoped for. I hold the same enamorment for CandyRat that I do for ECM, and I think the former has become what Windham Hill was heading towards, taking up the evolution Ackerman & Co. had worked up to just before that estimable imprint's collapse, one of the too few vanguards interested in the highest possibilities of artistic expression so deep that it serves as a much-needed progressive anchor in an era where retrogression and pandering constitute the norm, indeed the lamentable evidence of our culture's decay. Here, I needn't over-emphasize, in discs like this, we have the curative.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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