Fricke's Picks: The Garden of Forking Paths

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String Theories
The Garden of Forking Paths (Important) is a record of converging passions: an overview of the post-John Fahey improvising-folk renaissance through newly commissioned solo pieces for stringed instruments — acoustic guitar, lute, cello and Japanese koto. "The Broken Hourglass," by the British guitarist James Blackshaw, the album's curator, shows why he is a rising star himself. His twelve-string arpeggios tumble through cavelike echo with railroad-train force and balletlike finesse. Cellist Helena Espvall's "Home of Shadows and Whirlwinds" skids from atonal groans to hovering modal runs like John Cale's viola minus the rest of the Velvet Underground. In "The Mirror of Eternal Light," the Dutch lutist Jozef van Wissem catches his own reflection in tender, minimalist picking and gold-spray overdubs. Koto player Chieko Mori's opening and closing pieces are also duets — Mori playing with her virtual twin. But the effect is pure, private prayer.