Beating of the Rewound Sun
ix-and-twelve string folk guitar slingers will always be in the shadow of John Fahey. Considering the breadth of Fahey’s output, one cannot attempt a solo acoustic guitar record without encountering his ghost at some point. But the stylistic template defined by Fahey and refined in recent years by Jack Rose and Ben Chasny, among others, is so vast that one can be planted firmly within the shadow of the masters and still find light of one’s own.
Mike Tamburo’s Beating of the Rewound Sun emanates such a warmth and glow. Tamburo operates within the Delta swing faction of the guitar world, eschewing the raga forms that have come to dominate much of the work by psych-leaning contemporaries. But Tamburo is no guitar purist. He takes a kitchen sink approach to accompaniment, embellishing his compositions with the traditional (pianos and organs), the avant garde (a no-input mixing board softened significantly from its days with Sachiko M), the Oriental (gong, Tibetan Bowl used tastefully enough to avoid Orientalism), and the incidental (dog brushes and egg slicers). Despite the glut of instrumentation, his songs remain uncluttered and guitar-focused. Tamburo is a guitarist rather than a composer, but the elegant ambience surrounding his fingerwork allows him to explore Fahey’s territory without rehashing it.
These pieces are rich enough that the guitar alone need not carry them. Tamburo can indulge in a meditative approach to the instrument without boring the listener. Don’t expect to hear dexterous pyrotechnics here; Tamburo would rather compose lullabies. Consider the opener “Adam’s Fruit Temptation.” Amidst gentle fuzzy gurgles and rainbow bell-and-gong splashes, Tamburo coaxes a measured drawl from his six strings, evoking a Mississippi sunset glinting off saliva-shined watermelon seeds. But before one becomes too enamored with Southern revivalism, Tamburo drops the guitar in favor of a swirl of electronic effects. The track supports this tension between past and present for ten satisfying minutes before the guitar’s upbeat jaunt carries the day.
Tamburo enjoys toying with folk guitar’s historical associations. The sound and title of the third track—“And You I Will Love Like Yoko Ono”—make this clear. Archaic syntax meets modern art and pop culture. The track too traffics in the collision of eras. Antiquated pops and cracks open the track, giving way to sinuous drones courtesy of Ken Camden and Pete Spynda. Tamburo plays a dark, bluesy number while the drones become more alien and electronic. Eventually Tamburo’s playing lapses into restful notes stretched to the point of extinguishing. On the one hand, the track is seeped in the avante garde movements of the last quarter-century, but on the other, it is burrowing deep into the past, reaching inside the labored notes for the swampy genesis of blues motifs. The track ends in a flurry of guitar and bow-and-delay manipulation, suggesting a fruitful synthesis of the two conflicting approaches.
As evidenced by the preceding, Tamburo isn’t cut from quite the same cloth as most guitarists. He even omits the guitar entirely on “Kremlin Krab.” The silly title belies the stately piano and electronics. Though the shortest of the five on the album, its shimmering tones stand out. Tamburo is smart to flex his compositional talent—he has trouble sustaining a solo guitar piece. Perhaps if he pared four minutes or so off “Something About Dangerous Women” this wouldn’t be the case, but as is, the track is a little thin for its ten minutes.
Despite this miscue, Beating of the Rewound Sun merits its radiant imagery. Tamburo shines a light from the depths of the past and finds it reflected brilliantly in the present. I hope to hear more from him soon.