While greater fame continues to elude guitarist Carl Weingarten, his multidimensional styleborrowing liberally from artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Ry Cooder, Bill Frisell, Leo Kottke, David Sylvian, and Robert Frippcontinues to shape instrumental miniatures that are more akin to cinematic soundtracks than songs per se. For a look at where he's been and how he's developed, his recent compilation disc Hand in the Sand is a good place to start. The latest stop on his evolutionary path, Local Journeys, is also well worth a listen.
While Weingarten doesn't demonstrate the kind of instrumental virtuosity of some of his sources, that's hardly the point. Creating textural music that's more evocative than provocative, Weingarten's compositions tend to amble along, avoiding jagged edges that might get in the way of being lulled into an almost hypnotic ambience. But while his writing seems aimed at creating trance-like states where the listener's imagination fills in the visuals to his audioscapes, it's not strictly ambient music. The eleven original compositions on Local Journeys all have their own kind of pulseoften subtle, but almost always there.
Bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Brian Knave are Weingarten's constant companions throughout the disc, with keyboards and cellos adding further shape here and there. Manring seems able to fit into almost any contextmore textural here, to be certain, and in direct contrast to his more funk-laden work with guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's Yo Miles! projectand, like Weingarten, he can sometimes be found building multiple layers of bass which enhance the colour without weighing things down.
The overall mood of the album is one of dark beauty. There are brighter moments, as on the more propulsive title track, but even then there's a sense of unresolved mystery that unifies it with the rest of the album. "How Many Doors? blends a subtle reggae rhythm from Manring's bass and Knave's congas, even venturing out of the minor keys that define the lion's share of the recording, yet it remains enigmatic and somehow less than clearly defined.
Weingarten's attention to sound, and a writing style that often revolves around open-ended and non-change-oriented constructs, sometimes veers perilously close to New Age meandering. But a subtle development imbues all his compositions, each one having its own story to tell, elevating his pieces beyond that inherently damning categorization.
Some artists view their instruments as ends unto themselves; others view them as means to an end. With Local Journeys, Weingarten clearly sits in the latter camp, more interested in the broader aural potential of his instrumental palette. An album that is as much about freeing the imagination as it is engaging it, Local Journeys is a graceful addition to Weingarten's gradually evolving body of work.
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