Compilations / Mixes
EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
That Jeff Burch's first solo full-length resists easy categorization turns out to be—no surprise—one of the most appealing things about it. In general terms, the thirty-two-minute self-titled release presents two long-form instrumental compositions of markedly different character, with the first orienting its design around a central, pedal point-like pitch and the second more aggressive and percussive-driven by comparison. In terms of arrangements, both are expansive works that feature a host of different sounds, from acoustic guitar and modular synthesizer to cello and tenor saxophone. And while it is a solo release, it's not a purely solo production, as four guests—Stephen James (drums, percussion), Tres Warren (electric guitar), Marcus Whale (tenor sax), and Lianne Milward (violin, cello)—make significant contributions to the album's rich soundworld. Burch himself, an American-born New Zealander who now calls NYC's East Village home, is credited with guitars, bells, blues harp, electronics, organ, Moog, zither, and other instruments on the release.
The more drone-styled of the two is “The Nine Points,” a seventeen-minute setting that unfolds with patient deliberation as it evolves through multiple episodes. Setting sail with a peaceful sax-and-acoustic guitar combination, the material assumes a heavier weight when fuzz-toned electric guitar strums add their smolder to the pairing. Even at this early stage in the piece, its core pitch declares itself as a nucleus around which accompanying sounds thereafter position themselves. In classic electro-acoustic drone fashion, the pitch maintains its presence throughout the piece, despite fluctuations in volume and despite being passed on from one instrument to another. The advent of “La Perouse” announces an immediate change in mood when guitar strums and drums inaugurate the piece with a jaunty swing that rapidly swells into a forward-rushing attack of quasi-post-rock-styled character. Subsequent wah-wah guitar effects point in psychedelia's direction, while feedback distortion adds a noise dimension that brings the drum groove to a halt. The metamorphosis continues with an insectoid electro-acoustic episode that, by my count, represents the fourth stage in this restless shape-shifter.In both cases, Burch demonstrates sensitivity in his fluid administration of the instrument flow, specifically in the way he lets certain sounds appear and then fall away to be replaced by others. One particularly memorable sequence, for example, occurs midway through “The Nine Points” when the cello and acoustic guitar alternate phrases in concert with a repeating figure from the electric guitar. A note on the back cover of the release reveals that Burch has dedicated the release to the memory of his father, who passed away in 2010. Based on the evidence at hand, one imagines dad would be proud.