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Aural Pleasure Review

Steven R. Smith: Old Skete

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Multi-instrumentalist, musician, and printmaker Steven R. Smith's fifteenth solo album (from a staggeringly extensive discography of almost 40 releases) presents the artist at his most raw and vital: an album comprised entirely of solo guitar, with no edits, overdubs, loops, or studio trickery. The result is a haunting minimal record that retains the common thread of modal, droney, Eastern European folk-inspired chord progressions and movements that Smith is known for, while simultaneously giving his compositions appropriate room to breathe. Since the artist himself recorded the album live, there is an intrinsic candid and intimate nature to this release that is both intangible and captivating. Old Skete could very well be considered Smith's sketchbook; the intuitive nature of the pieces provide a glimpse into Smith's process. The works presented are not perfect in terms of performance or duration, but they are immediate, emotive, and vibrant. There are few times where more instrumentation is missed, but towards the end, when Smith starts banging out chords and allowing the pieces to crescendo (especially on the final track), you can't help but think how a killer rhythm section could close this record out perfectly.

★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

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