Nathan Salsburg - Landwerk & Landwerk No. 2 Music Album Reviews

Nathan Salsburg - Landwerk & Landwerk No. 2 Music Album Reviews
Nathan Salsburg - Landwerk & Landwerk No. 2 Music Album Reviews
Inspired by The Caretaker’s corroded loops of antique 78s, the Kentucky guitarist creates hypnotic dialogues with the past by mining and responding to his own vast collection.

For nearly a decade, Nathan Salsburg has managed a remarkably compartmentalized career. A dazzling solo guitarist, he’s released a series of largely instrumental acoustic albums that capture bucolic and bittersweet scenes. As sideman and collaborator, he has added restrained elegance to records by Joan Shelley, The Weather Station, and even Shirley Collins. The longtime host of a global folk show on New York’s erstwhile East Village Radio, Salsburg became the curator of the Alan Lomax Archive; as one of the compiling minds behind many of its recent revelatory releases, he assembles box sets and expounds on the virtues of folk music repatriation. The synthesis of all this work is sometimes audible on his albums, but it is not hard to imagine an old-time music enthusiast admiring the Lomax-centric gig without having heard the remarkable Third—or even knowing it’s the same Salsburg.
But Salsburg’s enthusiasms dovetail in plain view on Landwerk, a compelling pair of hypnotic records he completed during this year where time itself seemed to falter. In 2019, Salsburg began poring over The Caretaker’s self-made universe of borrowed ballroom recordings, sampled and looped and damaged to suggest a mind’s gradual slide into dementia. Inspired, Salsburg began digging through his own 2,800 or so 78s in search of evocative snippets from the past, ghosts he might revive long enough to play along with. Salsburg adds his emotionally nuanced guitar to century-old cultural flotsam, lending and receiving new meaning through the process.

On the first Landwerk volume,Salsburg responds in real time to the samples he has plucked, such as a wobbly Turkish dance band or the orchestra of a Finnish socialist society in New York. During the first piece, he lifts an organist’s sighing introduction to a Jewish High Holidays standard and uses its pillowy static as the textured canvas for the crosstalk of his guitars. His pensive electric lead and playful acoustic slide feel cautiously hopeful, suggesting the end of an arduous journey that never arrives.

Meaning emerges from these exchanges. Salsburg moves gingerly around that immigrant orchestra on the second piece, reinforcing their insistent horns patiently. By the end, though, he tires of waiting for them to change, stepping into the foreground to add new energy through a charged pointillist solo. For the 11-minute finale, Salsburg lets a wartime snippet of a pipe-and-drum band repeat, their cadence marching only toward oblivion. His melancholy guitar wraps around that rhythm like vines, suggesting a solemn war memorial overtaken by time and wisdom.

By comparison, Landwerk No. 2 may feel listless or repetitive at first. Like a searchlight through fog, Salsburg’s silvery electric guitar lines flash through the static-caked samples—a 1928 side from an orchestra of Slovakian coal miners in Pennsylvania, a sliver of a tender 1924 plea from the globetrotting “People’s Diva” Isa Kremer. These four tracks are self-contained pieces with distinct themes and textures; Salsburg’s piano even takes a surprise star turn near the start of “Coincident Constellation,” locked in an exchange with woozy strings.

But as with the best work of Earth or Eliane Radigue, these 36 minutes form a slipstream, entrancing you from the first dusty murmur to the last decaying drone. After half an hour, you may find yourself wondering exactly how you’ve already heard three pieces, and where the demarcations landed. Salsburg seems to disappear inside this music, subsumed by these whispered dialogues between past and present, between creation and discovery. Recorded late during this year’s sweltering and transformative Kentucky summer, these experiments feel like a harbor for Salzburg, a space to sit with worry and hope as long as needed.

More than the guitars, this sense of retreat—of taking care of one’s self—is the key difference between Salsburg’s work here and James Leyland Kirby’s enormous output as The Caretaker. Kirby’s music imagined the experience of others, especially the helpless sensation of the loops in your mind disintegrating into confusion. (Perhaps that’s why The Caretaker has enjoyed new life as a viral challenge on TikTok, our most expedient avenue for distilling life’s complexities into something resembling a commercial.). But Landwerk captures the exact feeling of this shared uncanny moment and the quest to be present even when the days tick by on repeat. These records feel like Salsburg’s own creative coping mechanism. They’re spacious enough to extend an invitation to you, too.
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Nathan Salsburg - Landwerk & Landwerk No. 2 Music Album Reviews Nathan Salsburg - Landwerk & Landwerk No. 2 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, January 09, 2021 Rating: 5

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