PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Daniel Bachman and the Primitive Catharsis of 'The Morning Star'

Photo: Jon Bachman / Courtesy of the artist

On his latest album, Virginia native Daniel Bachman returns home to create a deep, moving work of art filled with tension and beauty.

The Morning Star
Daniel Bachman

Three Lobed Recordings

27 July 2018

Daniel Bachman probably didn't set out to make a political statement, and at first blush, The Morning Star – his latest album and the first since his self-titled 2016 release – certainly doesn't sound like one. It is, after all, a completely instrumental work. But shortly after Bachman moved back to his native Virginia (after a multi-year residence in North Carolina), the 2016 U.S. presidential election took place, and soon afterward the songwriter/guitarist began creating a personal reflection of the chaos that shook America following those startling election results.

Consequently, The Morning Star is a sometimes difficult, thorny collection of sounds, but also a quiet, almost Zen-like meditation. It's a gigantic leap forward for this "outsider" artist who already seemed to be several steps ahead of the norm. Granted, the primitive folk sound for which he's been known over the past few years has never really come close to any kind of mainstream, cookie-cutter sound, but here he sounds more like he's blazing his own trail that any other time before.

Clearing the decks in the most audacious way possible, "Invocation" begins the album for a prodigious 18 minutes and 50 seconds. Combining the chime of singing bowls with insistent, Eastern-themed drones, cacophonous, feedback-laden AM radio broadcasts with languid slide guitar, the opening track isn't so much a composition as it is a bold, improvisational assault. It's Bachman venting his frustration, opening the floodgates of emotion, no matter how messy and ugly. It's a hard piece to get through, but it seems frightfully necessary.

"Sycamore City" plays into the "field recording" theme that tends to dominate The Morning Star. Recorded either outside or in a room with windows open wide, the natural aura of the outdoors – including everything from passing cars to the buzz of insects – can be easily heard while Bachman's knotty acoustic guitar rolls on, sometimes seeming tentative with the occasional long pause, but always coming off as deeply felt. It isn't until "Car" that the more noise-oriented atmosphere returns, albeit in a much shorter, simpler method than the opening track. In "Car", a Bontempi organ provides the insistent drone while Bachman's AM radio soundscapes ratchet up the tension. It's an unsettling, mysterious combination, particularly when the radio broadcast tunes into the fiery sermon of a gospel preacher.

"Song for the Setting Sun III" strips away the conceptual underpinnings of previous songs with Bachman's lone acoustic guitar filling the room's open spaces, in a style that's reminiscent of a more sparse version of Leo Kottke. The lonesome, intimate feel of the song seems almost too personal, like the listener is hearing sounds from another room to which they're not privy. At one point the field recording vibe is underscored by a passing ambulance siren (which, thankfully, doesn't seem to faze Bachman) in addition to the occasional squeaking of Bachman's chair. "Song for the Setting Sun IV" is, as its title suggests, a natural continuation of the previous song, but the minor-key drawl of the slide gives it a more mystical, almost forbidden quality.

The back-and-forth of folk-versus-noise is a fairly consistent dynamic throughout The Morning Star as the dense thicket of 12-string guitar that dominates the first half of "Scrumpy" – sounding like a psychotic, atonal take on bluegrass – slides effortlessly into the second half, which allows Bachman to catch his breath with simpler, more measured chord strums.

"New Moon" is an appropriate closer for The Morning Star, incorporating some of the meditative droning that was used to an almost excessive degree on "Invocation", but it's much quieter and restrained here. Bachman's slide runs and expert fingerpicking are accompanied only by an understated organ drone. It's the cool-down and reflection phase of the album, as it were. Like all of us, Daniel Bachman lives in a world dominated by chaos, anxiety and injustice. He doesn't have the answers, but he has the means to translate those emotions into art, and we're all invited to partake in the result.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.