The mere experience of listening to guitarist Shane Perlowin‘s debut solo disc, The Vacancy in Every Verse is a departure from all other listening experiences. This isn’t the comfortable familiar of a rock album, nor is it the formal reverence of a symphony performance. Yes, there are hints of cool jazz swagger but only when glimpsed between jagged riffs, intellectual refrains and and glass-smooth expanses of sonic water color. Never is there an easy resting place for the ear nor an intellectual toehold in Perlowin’s constantly shifting and surprising opus. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Best know for his work with instrumental math rock trio Ahleuchatistas, Perlowin’s solo work (on his own Open Letter Records imprint) pulls away from the punk teeth of that world-traveling musical act in favor of something more personal and introspective (though, if this is a window into Perlowin’s psyche, don’t expect any clarion revelations). Verse opens with “Touching Bent Antennae,” a clear and minimal acoustic track that touches on classical finger styling with moody elements of Spanish guitar.
On “Long Shadows,” Perlowin presents an abstract meditation on minutia; a sort of soundtrack to an insect world of busywork and intricacy. Guitar work mimics the tuning of a violin and the drone of bees. Repetition and dissonance lend a backward track sound, though album notes reveal that “all songs are recorded in real time, no overdubs or editing.” That Perlowin can achieve such a fastidious balance of conceptual sound and warm, organic tone is a testament to his immense talent.
The album’s title track — at 10 minutes — is perhaps its most exploratory (and this collection already ventures far from the well-worn path). The musician crafts impressions of rain, machinery, the percussion of xylophones and crickets. Melody gives way to fast and high-pitched notes distilled nearly to pure rhythm, and then woven, mad genius-like, into alternating layers of grinding industrial noise and sweeping, ethereal electric guitar.
But not all of Verse is quite so avant-garde. Drummer Ryan Oslance and bassist Joseph Burkett join Perlowin on four of the album’s tracks, presenting a tightly coiled and exotic journey on “Toppling Obelisks” and an especially stylish (if spare) turn on “Apostasy;” tracks which lend ballast to the disc’s most vanguard themes and anchor this collection for the adventurous listener.
And here is footage from Perlowin’s showcase earlier this month, where he played with his many bands, including Mind v. Target, Lulo and Ahleuchatistas.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter