Despite the group impression the name makes, The Howard Hughes Suite is the recording identity of a solo English pedal steel player, and High & Lonesome goes beyond his earlier recordings as an exercise in utilizing the recording studio as an instrument. The album presents the pedal steel guitar as an experimental instrument, sharing creative DNA with previous efforts such as the "ambient country" band SUSS and the playing of Daniel Lanois on albums like Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (EG, 1983).
The tracks all start with basic pedal steel (recorded to a click track to help with syncing during editing). But then a wide variety of electronic processing might happen: the audio transformation applications Samplr and Borderlands were frequently used, along with slowed down/reversed takes, plus various effects added during mixing. "Flow State" opens the album with a cloud of shimmering sounds, occasionally and briefly including unaltered pedal steel sounds to remind the listener of the source. "Slow Motion Pictures" sounds like organ music at first, before resolving into a kind of infinite pedal steel.
"Transcendental Medication" is the longest track by far, and it includes a wide variety of effects, creating an expansive soundscape which incorporates high chorus-like shimmering sounds and something that could easily be mistaken for an organ, as well as identifiable pedal steel phrases. "Lake of Dreams" evokes dream choirs accompanied by organ and pedal steel before closing with a virtual brass section. "Hinterland" closes the album with a shifting abstract electronic soundscape: some of the most extreme electronic manipulation in the set.
This music is certainly not what most listeners would associate with the "high and lonesome" description of American country music. But the emotional core is present just the same. A remarkable ambient music collection, and not just for pedal steel guitar fans.
Flow State; Reverie; Slow Motion Pictures; Transcendental Medication; Lake of Dreams; Desert Spirits; Hinterland.