dbh: Mass
Thread Recordings

There's a lot to like about this collection of solo instrumentals by dbh, otherwise known as Manchester-based guitarist Dan Bridgwood Hill and band member of NASDAQ and FTSE 100. It's the third such collection by him under the dbh name, with the first, Time Flies, surfacing on Crowfoot Records four years ago and the sequel, Mood, arriving two years later on Thread Recordings.

As the exquisite “Out and About” and Funny” so convincingly show, Hill's clearly got a knack for crafting strong melodies and clothing them in attractive acoustic garb, though it's worth mentioning that not every one of the ten tracks features acoustic only. “Light Pools,” for example, nudges the album in a rather different direction by augmenting his peaceful electric musings with dollops of ambient-drone shadings, the combination of which is not only lovely but also thoroughly serenading. The crystalline shimmer Hill adds to the presentation of “Blues II” even adds a bit of a quasi-psychedelic feel to the album.

What perhaps recommends the release most is the adventurous spirit exemplified by the material's creator. Rather than simply record ten exercises in acoustic guitar picking, Hill opted to mix things up by including electric pieces of a somewhat experimental nature as well as working strings and piano into a few settings. The inclusion of strings in “Med Sun” and “Ghost of Eyeless” gives the material a whole other dimension without taking anything away from its acoustic guitar focus. Piano, percussion, and acoustic bass all find their way into “Ghost of Eyeless,” while, in an even more surprising move, “Hike” features piano as the main instrument.

Don't be surprised either if you find yourself being reminded of a Nick Drake song or two as the album plays out. Mass is a wholly instrumental recording, yes, but the songs' melodies do at times call to mind the late legend's own material, and there's a relaxed vibe to the recording that enhances its appeal, too.

December 2017