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Harris Newman: Accidents with Nature and Each Other

Harris Newman: Accidents with Nature and Each Other

Label:Strange Attractors

By Marc Masters | Posted 3/30/2005

As mind-boggling as guitar legend John Fahey’s playing and songwriting were, even more impressive was the thick, textured atmosphere his music evoked. Single Fahey string-plucks could produce entire worlds of imagery and emotion, even when accompanied by nothing but his massive imagination. Canadian guitarist Harris Newman is frequently compared to Fahey, though his picking and writing style are too varied to attribute to any single influence. But Newman’s atmospherics are certainly Fahey-eqsue: Accidents With Nature and Each Other, his second album, creates a dark, mood-drenched environment. Newman’s best tunes are like soundtracks to wordless travel films, conjuring tracking shots down woodsy back roads, vivid time-lapses of cloudy landscapes, and rapid zooms into pitch-black tunnels.

Accidents With Nature’s vistas are wide: “Lake Shore Drive” marches through a hypnotic plod that seems to hang in the air, “It’s a Trap (Part II)” sounds like a horror score played on a train’s horn, and the opening “Lords and Ladies” matches Newman’s devoted note-mantras to the rumbling drum accompaniment of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s Bruce Cawdron. At times Newman’s proficiency diverts into monotony—“Cloud City” and “Continental Drift” sound more like finger exercises than songs—but for each misstep, Accidents holds at least three or four home runs. The best is the album-closing “Driving All Night With Only My Mind,” wherein Newman’s snaking interplay with Cawdron’s glockenspiel evokes campfire folk, bearded postrock, and chilly minimalism, all in a single intoxicating whoosh.

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