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Boomkat Product Review:
We have more than just a soft spot for James Blackshaw here at Boomkat HQ, I'd rather say we had a wet spot, but that'll probably get edited out. Anyway, his last album 'The Cloud of Unknowing' was his finest moment yet, and I stupidly assumed his work couldn't get any better. I should have known he'd pull it out of the bag though, and 'Litany of Echoes' is every bit as triumphant as its predecessor, if not even better. Interestingly enough we begin with Blackshaw taking the piano - it's as if he wants to tell us that he knows he's one of the finest living guitarists, but he can play the piano too. And play he does giving us his take on Morton Feldman or Charlemagne Palestine with 'Gate of Ivory', which serves both as a stunning track and a beautiful introduction to the record before it launches into the epic 'Past Has Not Passed'. This track is possibly Blackshaw's most richly orchestrated to date, beginning with a shower of delicately bowed strings before Blackshaw allows his trademark 12 string to make an entrance, thick and beautiful in its timbre. Like 'The Cloud of Unknowing' before it Blackshaw has now long shaken the shackles of mere Fahey reference and fallen head-first into a sound just as happy in the company of 4AD bands as Takoma acts. This is not to discount the record's scope though - I can imagine Tzadik lovers frothing at the record's unique take on ethnic drones, or followers of the most blissful ambient music developing a strange obsession with this talented songwriter. The album closes on another (mostly) piano piece and all that's left to do is play the whole thing from beginning to end again - this is blissful music, music to let you know that everything's okay - and sometimes that's all you need to know. Recommended!