VA: Imaginational Anthem Vol. 5
Tompkins Square

Though the first four volumes in Tompkins Square's Imaginational Anthem anthology series were overseen by label owner Josh Rosenthal, Sam Moss assumes the curator's role for the fifth and more than rises to the occasion with a splendid collection showcasing the talents of many young acoustic guitarists. For the record, the first three volumes feature both contemporary and obscure, almost-forgotten players, while the fourth includes only new players. Volume five's the one at issue here, however, and there's much to recommend it, especially when Tom Lecky (aka Hallock Hill), Yair Yona, Alexander Turnquist, and nine others cover such broad stylistic and emotional terrain.

The instrument's gorgeous chiming sound resonates throughout, whether the selection be one featuring rapid flurries or laid-back picking. Steve Gunn's “Temple Walk” proves to be an ideal scene-setter, given its spidery curlicues and insistent forward motion; Daniel Bachman's locomotive “Confederate Rose” likewise moves at a barn-burning pace. “Her Unmediated Eyes” offers a fine example of Lecky's style, which embroiders multiple layers into a fluid and dense cross-current of improvised lines. The dazzling swirls generated by Turnquist in his hypnotic reverie “Standing at the Entrance of a Hidden City” liken the piece to a blinding snow blizzard.

A down-home, back-porch flavour pervades some tracks that enhances their endearing character (Jordan Fuller's rollicking “I Think We'll Be Happy Here”), while others play like short stories filled with dramatic tales desperately needing to be told (Yona's “Rivers Gone Badly Wrong,” Nick Schillace's “There is a Place in This Old Town,” Eric Carbonara's “Through a House of Violet Abandon”). Some pieces are so aggressive in their attack they verge on violent: Cam Deas's “Modern Man in Search of a Song” is certainly one, and Bill Orcutt's “John Fahey Commemorative Beer Can” is as thorny and inspired a homage as might be imagined. While many pieces feature acoustic guitar only, others expand on the sound palette with judicious embellishments: a bulldoze of horns emerges midway through Turnquist's setting, for example, while Danny Paul Grody threads an organ-like drone beneath his picking in “Lookout Point.”

Beyond all else, the collection demonstrates how multi-dimensional a recording that's fundamentally oriented around a single instrument can be when the right combination of contributors is involved. Guitar aficionados also might be interested to know that not only is this excellent fifth volume now available, but so too is Imaginational Anthem Vols. 1-5, a six-CD box set that includes all five volumes plus an exclusive live disc from William Tyler (Lambchop).

December 2012