The Unseen In Between
Steadily, across a career now spanning a dozen years, Steve Gunn has progressively moved from the abstract, experimental and collaborative to a singular artistic with his own distinct sound. From American Primitive guitar beginnings where he was enthralled by the likes of John Fahey and Sandy Bull to full band workouts and a brief stint with Kurt Vile, Gunn has constantly sought to refine his playing and songwriting. It’s the latter that most prominently comes to the fore on this excellent new album.
The Unseen In Between is the most personal of Gunn’s albums. He sounds more reflective, restrained and unburdened than he ever has, singing tributes to his recently departed father (‘Stonehurst Cowboy’), painting stories of a cat and his owner (‘Luciano’)and character portraits of society’s outsiders.
Gunn draws on the wonderful harmonies of Meg Baird and the bass playing and experience of Dylan’s musical director Tony Garnier across the album. The exquisite and light-handed production (James Elkington) and Gunn & Co’s sympathetic playing and arrangements make for an album that floats along with an ethereal, pastoral quality yet below the surface all kinds of fascinating sonic layers and details make it ripe for ongoing discovery.
Folk music of this kind has of course been explored by plenty of the genre’s past auteurs – Bert Jansch, Van Morrison, Nick Drake, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley to name a few, but Gunn’s ability lies in the way he blends different strands and bends the form. ‘New Familiar’ is an indie rock song brushed with light psychedelia, ‘Lightning Fields’ takes off into into space rock territory, while ‘Paranoid’ dissolves into fractal effects before resurrecting itself as a soulful and thoughtful look at affairs of the mind.