Lukas Read: Neo Age
Dying For Bad Music

Song titles such as “Deep Winter Rag,” “Slow Burn Boogie,” and “Springtime Gallop” provide an immediate impression of what to expect from Lukas Read's Neo Age, but the eleven-track collection is something more than a one-note series of blues-country riffs thrown together by the American fingerpicker. The range of material featured on the album, recorded in Austin, Texas and issued by Dying For Bad Music in a limited, hand-numbered edition of 100 CDs, impresses, as does Read's execution.

Outside influences often seep into the American folk style of his tracks, whether it be psychedelia or Indian raga, and non-guitar sounds sometimes find their way into certain pieces, percussion boosting the forward thrust of “Deep Winter Rag,” for example. Read's dextrous fingerstyle playing is flatteringly showcased in engaging pieces such as “Bojangles Boogie” and “American Ramble (Revisited),” and though Neo Age is an all-instrumental album, I almost expected to hear his voice surface during “Further Interpretations of the Coocoo,” given the conviction with which its driving country-blues wail is performed.

Midway through the recording, Read veers off the beaten path for somewhat less conventional territory. “Electric Study” captures him waxing reflectively in a peaceful, eight-minute reverie, after which the title track, tipping its hat to musique concrète, opens with a woman's speaking voice before shifting its focus wholly to a bold coupling of acoustic picking and electric guitar flourishes. He indulges his experimental side during the slow-burning ambient-drone “Intermission” and especially “Draga,” which sees Read exploring stylistic zones associated with electro-acoustic and ambient-drone for a rather too-long twelve minutes, the guitar in this case rendered as an extended series of scrapes and shimmer.

That extended detour into experimentalism complete, Read reinstates the style of the album's initial pieces on the slide-drenched “Slow Burn Boogie” and infectious “Springtime Gallop.” The unconventional settings at the album's center do enhance Neo Age by documenting the breadth of Read's abilities, but the most appealing pieces are the ones at the beginning and end. They might be less experimental, formally speaking, but the satisfactions they offer are plentiful indeed.

August 2016