Ian C. Bouras – Absence (live looping)

BROADJAM: http://www.broadjam.com/iancbouras

Absence (live looping), the latest fourteen song collection from New York City songwriter and guitarist Ian C. Bouras, is the most recent achievement in a nearly twenty year recording career that has seen him gain notice as a musical force and the chief songwriter behind rock/reggae outfit AñaVañA and a string of impressive solo releases that began emerging in 2007. Absence (live looping) is definitely reliant on electronic effects, but Bouras never uses them gratuitously. Instead, he uses the guitar and an assortment of effects to shape the compositions in colorful ways that create atmospherics and accentuate melody. Bouras’ instrumental prowess comes through at numerous points – there’s no question that Bouras is far from some charlatan hiding a dearth of skill behind special effects. The production places his guitar front and center in a way that allows it to immediately connect with listeners.

The opening duo of “While You Were Gone” and “Trappings of Oblivion” begin the album on a decidedly serious note. They also introduce us to a significant part of Bouras’ compositional approach on the release – he develops melodies in a much more patient way than we’re used to in most popular music, yet the song lengths remain condensed and focused. His use of space in his sound scapes is equally important. There’s no doubt that the effect, like looping, imposed on his sound are crucial to the success or failure of the individual songs and work as a whole, but the fundamental strengths of the performances reach far beyond mere gimmickry. “Thoughts of You” gives us a different emotional tenor than the aforementioned tunes while still following the template laid down by the two opening tracks. The shattered romanticism permeating the album extends across a variety of numbers and contributes mightily here.

“Conversations with Strangers” might be the darkest track on the album, at least initially, and its build up is expertly handled. The album’s longest track “Words Never Whispered” doesn’t veer off course from what Ian Bouras serves up in the shorter numbers, but provides him with a much wider canvas than he’s enjoyed in the earlier numbers. The added spirit of daring gives this song a slant we don’t hear as clearly in the other numbers. “Rejuvenation” has a more angular, experimental approach than the earlier tracks and maintains that line of attack throughout the length of the song. Clear, more conventional melodies return with the track “Fear of Sleep”, though the song has a sharply downcast, even mournful sound. “Escape from Planet Brain (A New Reality)” has some gestures towards percussion and an intense, theatrical structure certain to appeal to the imaginations of many listeners. The curtain closer for Absence (live looping) “Until We Meet Again” is the album’s shortest track coming in at just under three minutes and embraces a foreboding mood over any of the aforementioned shattered romanticism. Some might hear this collection as a challenging listen, but it can’t be stressed enough how accessible many of these performances are despite their instrumental angle and layers of effects. Absence (live looping) has a simultaneously spontaneous and studied air that makes Ian Bouras’ latest release one of the year’s most interesting.

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Lance Wright