In a world of people buying pre-holed jeans and worn-looking shoes, Time Off is the sound of Gunn slowly, surely wearing away at the denim, kicking up his own cloud of dust.
Steve Gunn has long been a part of various strains of great music. He's might be best know for playing with Kurt Vile, but he also played with the excellent noise outfit GHQ and as the Gunn-Truscinski Duo. Those bands show his experimental twist on American Primitive, but it's his solo records, especially standouts Boerum Palace and Too Early For the Hammer, that have made a case for Gunn as a musician with his own vital musical landscape. Time Off, his first solo album with a full band (including Duo drummer John Truscinski), is his most accomplished record to date. It bathes in gauzy pastoral hues and rippling guitars, and Gunn's voice is distant and ethereal, but don't mistake that vibe and the album's title for some sort of slacker folk. Instead, this stuff meditates and digs, with slow rotations, grinding through the dusty surfaces it creates. Each song takes its time, from the country shuffle of "Water Wheel" to the more tangled guitar work of "Lurker" to the brilliant instrumental closer "Trailways Ramble". With each song, Gunn builds on guitar phrasings that are cyclical but never stagnant, repeating (and often distorting) hooks to get us to re-hear them, and the band gives Gunn a more traditional country-rock structure without hemming the songs in. As exploratory as they are well-defined, the songs move flawlessly from one sweet, earthen track to the next. In a world of people buying pre-holed jeans and worn-looking shoes, Time Off is the sound of Gunn slowly, surely wearing away at the denim, kicking up his own cloud of dust.