Highly adept guitarist Neil Campbell has appeared twice before in these pages, in the Neil Campbell Collective (here) and with Michael Beiret and Anne Taft (here), discs dwelling in the proggy, fusiony, art music zone, but Tabula Rasa is a return to elder roots, to days when one was learning one's craft and, often by surprise, became enamored of the classical side of the house, here almost completely featuring Campbell on his own, armed only with an acoustic guitar. The CD isn't at all what I expected, but then Campbell isn't known for conservative behaviors, is he?
I have to say right off the bat that I'm can't perceive why Neil chose to recruit Manuella Blackburn to provide the "sound environments" to the intro cuts, as, at first, they seem to consist of aping a mildly backgrounded poorly pressed record suffering from groove damage. Baffling. Is this an application of glitch I'm not familiar with? Has the, um, 'philosophy' gotten to that? Regardless, Campbell's work itself is pristine and beautiful despite, and that whispery static soon gives way to recessed birdsong on the third cut, as though the guitar's now walking through an aviary or arboretum. The timbre of the major portion of the CD, the Campbell-composed collection of cuts, is akin to Tarrega sieved through Satie…and thus we find it no surprise that the closing cuts are the three famed Gymnopedies by the stellar Rosicrucian.
Tabula Rasa, it's rapidly evident, is a CD for contemplation, relaxation, the westering of the sun towards a purple horizon, an interlude of an evening with a few quiet friends, in the back of the house, on the adobe patio, wine in hand. It's by no means New Age, being too intelligent for that, but instead something that might serve as an interim between a set by Narcisco Yepes and the trad side of Oregon. I found Tabula Rasa VI to be particularly poignant while the eightth movement carries a Castilianly Gothic air, Perri Alleyne-Hughes' melismatic vocals sounding ghostly in the distance.
The Satie sketches are as one would expect them to be, and Erik's unbelievably restrained compositions never get old, thus forming a fitting denouement to the proceedings. And as this will be among the very last reviews I pen for FAME, be aware that the ever-eclectic Campbell will later this year (2015) be issuing a disc of Reich and Glass compositions as well as extrapolations on Joni Mitchell's landmark Blue LP, a tribute/interpretation titled The Blue Project. I tolya he never stays in one place!…and the mouth waters in anticipation.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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