Tony Wilson: Horse's Dream
Drip Audio

Horse's Dream by axe-wielder Tony Wilson arrives with a rather psychedelic colour treatment of tree photography on the outer sleeve and an achromatic photo of a rustic cabin on the inside (the 'Boathouse' on Hornby Island, in fact, where parts of the album were recorded)—an apt visual metaphor for the sonic contrats of the album itself. The fourteen primarily solo guitar excursions (Wilson sometimes overdubs, layering delicate lines over lulling strums in “Meditation #3”) feature delicate jazz-tinged playing and dissonant noise squalls in equal measure, with atonal scraping, electric roar, and ruminative picking in the episodic “A Bit More 1, 2, 3/Retracing (a) & (b)” a microcosm of the entire album.

Wilson impresses most, however, when he plays it straight, with tunes like the lyrical “Hornbilly” and warhorse “Danny Boy” showcasing his talents most artfully. The clean tone presented in “Meditation #2,” a lovely folk-waltz also distinguished by Jesse Zubot's countrified violin playing, recalls Bill Frisell (the tune's back-porch character further reinforced by Bob Grant's “woodstove and utensils” on three cuts) while the duo's second pairing, “Meditation #4,” marries Wilson's restrained elegance and Zubot's lush lines to good effect too. Elsewhere, the guitarist's reading of Coltrane's “Venus/Offering” generates suitably ferocious heat without ever veering entirely out of control.

Though nominally a jazz guitarist, the diversity of Horse's Dream suggests Wilson isn't interested in being so easily pigeonholed, and on that level he succeeds. The 44-minute collection isn't without its flaws—“Froggy Goes To Courtenay” is playful but inconsequential while “Arpeggio/Lonesome Valley” is marred by his (purposefully) distorted singing—but Wilson succeeds more often than not, especially when he controls the self-indulgent urge and keeps things simple.

December 2005