Matt Northrup: Lucky Stumbles
Full Spectrum Records

Guitar aficionados would do well to track down Matt Northrup's Lucky Stumbles, as a single exposure to the musician's follow-up to last year's Word is Bond is all it would take to convince said listeners of the recording's merits. A masterful exploration of the guitar's timbral range, the opener “World of Taste” weaves electric guitar blaze, acoustic strums, and what sounds like banjo picking into eight anthemic minutes of instrumental wonder. Northrup doesn't include a single layer of each instrument but rather assembles his pieces using multiple layers of each until the whole resounds in a near-ecstatic fashion. Northrup's electric guitar playing, which often exudes a sharp-edged snarl that's reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's playing, roars majestically at the music's center while the other instruments surround it with a stable base.

It's an approach the North Carolinian uses throughout the half-hour recording, whether it be during the metronomic “Leveller,” which overflows with a spring-time optimism, or the brooding dronescape “Song A,” which presents a darker side of the experimental musician's vision. There's also a satisfying flow to the mini-album, due to the fact that each setting segues without interruption into the next so that instead of eight distinct pieces the recording plays like an extended suite. Though he also ventures into the world of synth-driven psychedelia during “Club Hugs,” Lucky Stumbles is primarily a guitar-based project that's distinguished by a superb command of compositional arrangement and structure.

April 2012