Squares On Both Sides: Salt Meadows
Own Records

Daniel Bürkner recorded his latest Squares On Both Sides collection in a forest house in southern Bavaria and that's exactly what it sounds like. His fourth full-length album Salt Meadows is an intimate and home-made collection of melancholy vocal folk settings arranged for acoustic guitar, piano, and voice and given an arresting edge by the additional colour (melodica, strings, ukuleles, field recordings, glockenspiel, electronics) with which Bürkner enlivens its nine songs—in fact, the last sound one hears on the album is fireworks, of all things. His fragile singing (sometimes multi-tracked) imprints itself upon the material so indelibly it leaves no doubt that one could only be listening to a Squares On Both Sides recording. The album also appeals on instrumental grounds because Bürkner manages to make his unassuming songs feel uncluttered while at the same time sprinkling them with a constant array of subtly integrated touches; at times, a song's arrangement is so developed it begins to sound as if we're hearing a small ensemble playing as opposed to Bürkner's one-man band. In another context, opening a song with glockenspiels (“Water From The Tap”) might seem fey yet the sincerity, delicacy, and charm of Bürkner's songwriting allows him to get away with it. The inclusion of a few brief instrumentals emphasizes the more abstract and conceptual side of the Squares On Both Sides universe, but it's the vocal pieces that leave the stronger impression. Salt Meadows is the kind of project that one could easily picture appealing to listeners drawn to the music of artists like Bill Callahan and Gareth Dickson.

October 2010