The most beautiful and heartbreaking warped folk instrumentals you’ve ever heard. Scott Tuma’s a legendary Chicago guitarist who helped shape alt-country with the band Souled American and then played in Boxhead Ensemble. All his releases say they’re “made by nature,” and this music feels saturated in the outdoors, from the loose and naturalistic rhythms of the guitars to the frequent presence of field recordings and wind chimes and sounds coming in through the open window. His recordings sound like pre-1940 American standards falling apart and sinking back into the earth. |
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Tuma’s music so calming and emotionally overwhelming at the same time, but it might be the way the songs so sensuously celebrate the natural world while they acknowledge its inevitable decay and rebirth. Even though he’s had a quiet but powerful influence on experimental and Americana artists alike and beyond, who tend to speak of his work in near-mythic terms (John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats once called Souled American “probably my favorite band of all time”), his profile is so low that he’s played very few solo shows outside Chicago, despite his own efforts. With all hope this album will change that. Favorites: 3, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20. Every track is great, but I especially like the few with vocals. This might be my record of the year. There are usually a few seconds of silence at the beginning and end of each track. No FCCs.
1. (3:43)—Very slow, minimal. Breezy, light, pleasant, so sedate it’s almost drone.
2. (1:36)—Faded, bent, sunny guitar.
3. *(3:03)—Prominent chimes, lovely bendy guitar notes.
4. (2:31)—Bouncy, like a weirdo Western romp.
5. (1:44)—Watery, tripped-out harmonium. Ominous high sirenlike sounds.
6. (3:56)—Nocturnal, desolate.
7. *(2:49)—Pitched-up vocals that sound alien and mournful. Almost painfully sad.
8. *(5:47)—Dark, cavernous, very slow, guitar lines snaking lazily around each other. Xylophone-like chiming sounds.
9. (4:14)—Really loud dissonant chimes. Banjo?
10. (2:40)—Music box-like harmonic cadences. High pitched Nashville-tuning-type guitar.
11. (1:25)—Deeper, loping. Rustling of trees.
12. (1:31)—Harmonium drone, high lonesome Western guitar.
13. *(3:44)—A darker version of track 7. Very slow, less pitched-up vocals. Outsider blues.
14. *(2:18)—High, shimmering guitar. Bird sounds. Idyllic and joyous.
15. *(5:57)—Gorgeous and pained rendition of “Clementine.” Warm harmonium dirge. Cracked, buried vocals. Wow, wow, wow.
16. (1:45)—Loping, triumphant, spaced-out Western film theme.
17. *(3:22)—Really loud bells. Chaotic and sparkling to start, then settles into a serene folk progression.
18. (2:28)—Gliding fingerpicked figures. Sounds almost like Baroque music.
19. (1:55)—Reminiscent of track 16, but a little more sedate.
20. *(3:44)—Harmonium drone. Humid, resonant, very slow guitar.
21. (3:25)—Tin can sounds, fractured harmonies.
22. (1:50)—More jingling metallic sounds. Slow and melancholy.
23. (3:38)—Bird sounds. High, bright, easygoing fingerpicked harmonies.
24. (1:55)—Mellow, minimal fingerpicking.
25. (3:42)—Peaceful, droning finale. Ambulance sounds.