Lanterna: HighwaysBadman Recording; www.badmanrecordingco.com.
The rise of interest in New Age and world music has opened people's ears to the joys of trance, drone, and extended melodic improvisation, but the world of rock 'n' roll retains its insular, slightly xenophobic ways. Henry Frayne, the fretboard wizard who records under the nom de musique Lanterna, may not change that, but he tries his best on Highways, giving us a highly original take on the possibilities of instrumental guitar music. He borrows a bit from John Fahey's "American primitive guitar" style (combining flurries of single notes and rich ringing chord clusters) and a bit from the world music–influenced minimalism of Michael Brook, creating a dreamy drone that harks back to Eno's first post-Roxy experiments with ambient music. "Adriatic" has a slight Latin tinge, a languid tempo, and a slowly unspooling melody that makes it perfect for late-afternoon daydreaming. "Clear Blue" lives up to its name with a constellation of twinkling electric guitar figures set against long, sustained bass notes that keep the music anchored to the earth. Despite its urban namesake, "Brooklyn" rides a relaxed country-rock rhythm while electric and acoustic guitars engage in a tranquil call-and-response. Frayne's extended improvisations create sinuous soundscapes full of vast empty spaces, aching melancholy, and sudden, flickering shadows.
J. Poet writes about pop music and culture for Paste, Harp, Grammy.com, and many other publications and Web sites. He lives in San Francisco with his partner and his CD collection.