Indianapolis-based guitarist/composer Charlie Ballantine continues on the eclectic path forged on Providence (Self Produced, 2016) on Where Is My Mind?, his third self-produced outing as a leader. Ballantine is again joined by alto saxophonist/flutist Amanda Gardier, with a new rhythm section of bassist Jessie Whittman and drummer Jay Tibbitts. In the absence of a keyboard there is even more emphasis on the guitar. It's all twangy Americana on openers "Real Things" and "Jones"Gardier doesn't join in until the last part of "Real Things," and "Jones" is a trio. So is "Hallways," which mixes swing with atmospheric loops and a bass solo.
The title tunewhich is indeed a Pixies coveropens with some warped electronic sounds before launching into the tune proper. Ballantine and Gardier take turns playing the tune and the accompaniment pattern, and while the leader maintains a rock feel even while soloing, there are saxophone solos that effectively overlay an overtly jazz approach. "Futuretown" goes for freedom and grunge in equal measure: Ballantine sounds like a different guitarist on it. Sun Kil Moon's "Carissa" is a dark ride with the lyrics, but without them it becomes a delicate waltz ballad. It includes creative electronic processing on the flute, different enough that it may not even be identifiable at first listen.
The "Where Is My Mind?" reprise is a short blast of electronic dub. The traditional tune "Wayfaring Stranger" strays closest to Bill Frisell territory (one of Ballantine's avowed major influences). It's a potent blend of looping with acoustic and electric guitars, another effective example of the subtle guitar layering that characterizes much of the album. "The Last One" closes the set, a brief, melancholy unplanned collective improvisation at the end of a night of recording. It's a fitting conclusion to an album that blends spontaneity with meticulous post-production, and shows little regard for stylistic categories: jazz, rock and folk music peacefully coexist in Charlie Ballantine's world.
Real Things; Jones; Hallways; Where Is My Mind?; Telluride; Birds; Future Town; Carissa; Where Is My Mind? (reprise); Wayfaring Stranger; The Last One.
Charlie Ballantine: guitar; Amanda Gardier: alto saxophone, flute; Jessie Whittman: bass; Jay Tibbitts: drums.