The late British writer, theorist, and philosopher Mark Fisher once coined the term “lost futures”, referring to his fear that society was losing its ability to conceptualize a tomorrow that was radically different from its present. The obsession with nostalgia was preventing the creation of a better world. Why this term became the title of the new collaboration between guitarists Marisa Anderson and William Tyler isn’t self-explanatory. Still, it may have something to do with the fact that the sounds they wrest from their guitars on this album seem like a collection of the past styles on which they’ve built their reputations.
If Lost Futures is the sound of two musicians dipping generously into the past, so be it. The folk, blues, and Americana stylings all over this stunning album hardly make it sound like an exercise in tired cliches. If anything, the melding of their instruments has created something fresh and vibrant. Recorded in Tucker Martine’s studio in Anderson’s adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon, Lost Futures sees Anderson and Tyler jumping between a variety of genres but never in a way that seems forced or flighty. The fact that it’s almost exclusively Anderson and Tyler on a variety of stringed instruments and bits of keyboard – occasionally joined by Martine on drums and Gisela Rodriguez Fernandez on violin and viola – gives the songs an arresting, sometimes haunting intimacy.
“News About Heaven” opens the album with a bluesy, almost gospel-flavored majesty, as the two guitarists’ combined electric guitars, aided by Tyler’s dobro, weave around each other with Hammond organ providing a subtle drone. But once the listener drinks in that mesmerizing ambiance, gears are shifted for the title track, as nylon string and acoustic guitars create a thorny folk atmosphere.
Anderson and Tyler implement a hypnotic krautrock vibe with “Something Will Come” by implementing various instruments, including the dobro, organ, electric sitar, requinto jarocho, and dulcimer. Martine’s drumming provides a galloping pace to help wipe away any sense of calm brought on by the preceding tracks. While that song works as an effective palate cleanser, an exotic blues/folk hybrid is eked out of “At the Edge of the World”, which features Fernandez on violin and patricia vázquez gómez on quijada (jawbone percussion). In lesser hands, this type of genre-hopping may come off as sloppy and awkward, but Anderson and Tyler navigate through the styles with ease and precision.
On the album’s closer, “Haunted By Water”, Anderson and Tyler revisit some of the Americana drone of the first track, albeit with more of a purist’s ear. With Anderson on electric guitar and organ, Tyler taking on acoustic guitar and bass, and Martine on drums, the instrumentation is relatively conventional, resulting in a somewhat sober take on instrumental electric country music. Towards the end of the song, Anderson guides the musicians through bits of vague, haunting dissonance, as if she can barely contain her sense of musical adventurism. It’s a telling section of the song, indicating that even as they slip into something vaguely resembling musical convention, these brilliant artists are bursting with creativity and bold ideas. Lost Futures may be dotted with nostalgia, but it’s most definitely a bold move forward.