Boomkat Product Review:
Pelt/Black Twig Pickers fiddler Mike Gangloff appears with his first solo LP in ages and tracks through American folk styles with a sensitive ear, smartly absorbing drone elements into the shimmering atmosphere.
Mike Gangloff's been a constant on the US avant-folk scene for years, and his compositions have helped define a certain strain of American folk music that's often shrouded in nationalistic politics and misinformation. With Black Twig Pickers he re-contextualised Appalachian traditional sounds, and in Pelt - accompanied by the sorely missed Jack Rose - Gangloff made important connections between psychedelic music, folk, and global drone music.
Considering the amount of music he's put out, his solo material has been relatively thin on the ground - in the last few years he's spent more time putting together charming records with his wife Cara. "Evening Measures" then is a rare, single-minded statement from the Virginia-based musician, made using the Hardanger fiddle (a traditional Norwegian folk instrument with resonant sympathetic strings), and an octave fiddle, a violin strung with octave strings to give it a lower tone.
Mostly original music (only 'Wild Geese Chase' is a trad fiddle standard), the album does a fantastic job of evoking the complex desolation of the Virginia landscape. By using instruments that have long sat at the center of the American primitive sound, Gangloff's compositions are immediately placeable - even if we don't know the instruments by name, we know them by ear. That windswept sound - microtonal by nature - manages to bridge the gap between folk music and experimental drone, suggesting an inherent psychedelia in the original music that might not always be obvious. If it feels cinematic, it's because we're projecting our interactions with this music, no doubt from absorption of US documentaries and plains movies, onto what it is Gangloff is representing. Truly though, he's doing something way less musically manipulative, and slips into a delightfully post-Fahey musical nook that manages to sound at all times doggedly avant-garde while also being lashed to a history that's so tangible you can taste it.
Very good indeed.