Release Date: May 26, 2009
Record label: Young God
A lilting chamber piece for piano and strings that is full of space and delicate textures and seems to portray stillness as a place, "Fix" is followed by "Key," a guitar journey that seems to answer the former piece by tracing movement from a single place to a wide-open field of possibilities and directions. It is songlike rather than simply atmospheric. The final track -- and also the longest at nearly 20 minutes -- is "Arc," which begins as a solo piano piece.
It feels strange to say James Blackshaw has incorporated more orchestration into his new album, The Glass Bead Game. His records barely seem to hold the depth and dimensions of his guitar play alone. How can he even fit cello and other strings and even voice on to his record without weighing it down, overstuffing it or bloating it with sound? Well, in the way Blackshaw seems to do so much with so little on all his records, he does the same with newer elements on The Glass Bead Game.
James Blackshaw has made quite a name for himself in the post-Takoma school of guitar playing, coming closer than perhaps anyone to fulfilling the guitar-as-orchestra ambitions so many have harbored. He's an experimentalist, but rarely an obtuse one, and he's created some amazing, enveloping music. On The Glass Bead Game, Blackshaw's guitar is, as always, a heavenly instrument, but he continues to move further from the guy-and-guitar approach that established him, bringing in more varied instrumentation.
James Blackshaw’s early records trace an enviably meteoric and apparently effortless ascent. From his debut Celeste through the grand O True Believers, he has displayed an uncommon command of the 12-string guitar’s rich sonorous possibilities, displayed talents for exotic arrangement, and elaborated on a skill for extended melodic development that has earned comparisons to Robbie Basho and Sandy Bull. He makes no secret of his ambition to be more than a hot acoustic guitar player.