Daniel Bachman - Almanac Behind Music Album Reviews

Daniel Bachman - Almanac Behind Music Album Reviews
Nature takes center stage on the experimental guitarist’s latest album—a response to climate crisis blending fractured melodies with recordings of severe weather and emergency broadcasts. 

Daniel Bachman records often sound like collaborations with nature, blending his instrumental guitar compositions with sounds from his native Virginia. From the cicadas on 2013’s Jesus I’m a Sinner to the rain, insects, and frogs that punctuate 2018’s The Morning Star, field recordings from back roads and front porches bring Bachman’s surroundings to life and strengthen his connection with the state’s rural folk tradition. But the closer he observed the natural rhythms around him, the more alarmed he became at the changes he noticed: dying trees, drying creeks, flash flooding, and wildfires. 

On his latest album, Almanac Behind, nature takes center stage, sometimes overwhelming the music completely. Whereas last year’s Axacan generated a sense of dread by weaving thunderstorms and emergency radio broadcasts into its sonic fabric, here panic sets in as the seams rip apart. Nature is no longer aestheticized; it is real, immediate, and dangerous. Instruments struggle to be heard over pelting hail, and melodies are drowned out by windstorms. “People that are familiar with my work over the years may be wondering why my music has taken such a drastic turn in theme and composition recently,” Bachman wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread. On Almanac Behind, his answer is that artistic expression, his music included, risks futility in the face of overlapping climate crises.

Instead of addressing the global scale of these crises, Bachman chooses to stay local. Almanac Behind crafts a composite thunderstorm from weather events in northern Virginia. Wind chimes softly clink in the background as a digitally manipulated slide guitar attempts a halting improvisation on “Barometric Cascade (Signal Collapse).” Soon the guitar is lost between radio frequencies as an emergency weather report cuts in. The relaxed front-porch atmosphere of Bachman’s earlier albums is transformed into a narrative of survival through the ensuing storm, from gust front to supercell to flooding to blackout. On album standout “Flood Stage,” radio static dramatically slows to create a pulsing beat that backs a dissonant pairing of harmonium and slide guitar. Even this relatively placid track turns unsettling as rainfall rises in volume until it breaks into the harsh “Inundation.” Throughout Almanac Behind, these instrumental interludes only serve as brief respites on either side of another disaster. 

In a video for “540 Supercell,” Bachman explains that summer heatwaves harden the soil of waterways and river beds, causing both floods and fires. As a wildfire roars into life on the album’s second side, a hand-cranked radio tunes into a smoke inhalation alert on  “3:24 AM KHB36 (When The World’s On Fire).” Its monotone voice is distorted and spliced, engulfing Bachman’s version of a Carter Family tune in hair-raising warnings that the air is unsafe to breathe. All seems to be well again on the closing “Recalibration/Normalization” until the guitar warps into a low drone and the same wind chimes from the album’s opening reappear. In fact, Almanac Behind is a loop that can be played seamlessly on repeat: a reminder that the catastrophes it describes are not singular, but cyclical. Amid the violent weather and Bachman’s fractured melodies, we hear the warnings loud and clear.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Daniel Bachman - Almanac Behind Music Album Reviews Daniel Bachman - Almanac Behind Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 28, 2022 Rating: 5


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