Tom James Scott, School and Rivers; Music For One, The Red Thumb

Two very different approaches to the acoustic guitar.  Both albums are purely instrumental, yet they come from contrasting schools of thought and as a result exist in considerably differing soundworlds.  The Tom James Scott record emerges from the (art) school of minimalist composition, right down to the Morton Feldman quotation on the sleeve.  Scott clearly believes that the impact of his music comes as much from the spaces between the notes as from the notes themselves.  As a result, much of the time on the record’s five long tracks is given over to silence, with the listener often left wondering when the next note is going to come along.  At times, the effect is unintentionally comic, as for example on the opening title piece “School and Rivers”, which put me in mind of nothing so much as a broken musical box weakly trying to play a tune.  The timbre of the guitar is tinny, while the event horizon is severely circumscribed; you keep waiting for something interesting to happen, but it never arrives.  A tuba emerges at intervals, sounding surprisingly puny for such a physical instrument.

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