Invisible String features live performances of seventeen songs Gareth Dickson recorded during various tours and one-off concerts in Europe in 2012, with all of them originating from three locales: the banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey (three songs), Reims, France (two), and an apartment lobby in Caen, France (twelve). But deprived of that background info, the listener likely would take the album for a live document of a single Dickson concert, given how effectively the songs constitute a concert-styled presentation. Oh, sure, edits between songs are sometimes audible, yet the song sequencing flows so naturally, the album plays like a single performance of seventy minutes duration. For any listener who's not yet had the pleasure of experiencing Dickson's artistry on albums such as Collected Recordings (Drifting Falling, 2009) and Quite A Way Away (12k, 2012), Invisible String offers an ideal entry point.
It's a solo recording in the most authentic sense, too, as nothing more than Dickson's distinctive vocals and steel string guitar playing are heard. But, as listeners familiar with his output already know, nothing more is needed when the songs are so captivating. He expands on the guitar's sound through the application of analogue delay and reverb, and consequently there are passages where the instrument grows into hypnotic webs of billowing string textures. That's never more apparent than during instrumental pieces such as the jaunty “Agoa” and “The Dance,” and Dickson's hushed voice is as enchanting on the album's live takes as on the studio recordings. In the time-honoured troubador tradition, he enchants his audience with seductive folk settings that augment his transporting murmur with sparkling guitar patterns (“Once Upon,” “Song, Woman and Wine”). Some songs are suffused with urgency (“Get Together,” “Technology”) whereas others, such as the haunting “Fifth (The Impossibility of Death),” “Harmonics,” “Climbing,” and “Two Trains,” achieve their powerful effects using comparatively restrained means.
Crowd noise is at times present (perhaps most noticeably during “The Big Lie”), and a relaxed intimacy is present in the recordings, something borne out by Dickson's oft-irreverent between-song patter. At one point he says, “So far, so good. No sign of the police…yet,” a comment that alludes to the guerrilla-styled approach to certain recording locations. In short, the recording is a pleasure from start to finish, and the cover's beautiful, too. With songs reprised from his earlier releases (all but one by Dickson, the exception being “Nunca Jamás,” an Argentine folk song by Don Atahualpa Yupanqui), Invisible String conveys somewhat the feel of a slate-cleaning, as if Dickson's readying himself for the next phase in his solo career. Hopefully it won't be too long before a new batch of songs finds its way into the world.