[19 November 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Jenks Miller brings the swampy feel of the south into Black Metal with his band Horseback, and he stomps dustily through the sunburst country of Mount Moriah. It’s of little surprise, then, that his solo record, Spirit Signal, flies all over the sonic map, albeit in a far more secluded and meditative manner. These songs were all written, recorded, and mixed in a day, and the immediacy is clear. The two slide guitar improvisations that open the record—one in “a Blues Style”, the other in “a Noise Style”—are as much about geography as they are about sound, stretching out into the expanse of negative space around them. As Miller’s playing takes on more structure, there’s still that spatial connection, as “By the Haw” was recorded, in fact, by the Haw River, and to hear the harmonica drift over the flow of the river is lonesome in the sweetest way possible. The title track is a perfectly Southern guitar vamp, each note dripping sweat in some late-summer steam, each one hinting at a place far off it may never get to. The album culminates in the nearly 22-minute drone piece, “Miro”, that finds Millers guitar grinding away while he sings in the background, feeling his way around the words almost as an afterthought to the atmosphere. This may be a far more obvious display of his varied textures than the subtler approaches he takes in his bands, but that doesn’t make the results any more arresting. Spirit Signal creates spaces to get lost in, spaces to find new secrets in, spaces worth revisiting.