Jeff McLeod | Ever-Stretching Shadow

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Avant Garde: Structured Improvisation Jazz: Weird Jazz Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Ever-Stretching Shadow

by Jeff McLeod

Live solo guitar minimalism.
Genre: Avant Garde: Structured Improvisation
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ever-Stretching Shadow
2:10 album only
2. Lapse
2:57 album only
3. A Curse
4:33 album only
4. Distant Ships Sinking
4:52 album only
5. Absent One
7:44 album only
6. The Horror Approaches
2:33 album only


Album Notes
Ever-Stretching Shadow comes in a limited edition of 50 CDs--each with a unique, numbered, handmade sleeve. It's very quiet and minimal . . . recorded live with a simple stereo field recorder, using only guitar and amp reverbs (with occasional use of an e-bow). Over 100 pieces were recorded, and sifted through for the 6 that make up this 25-minute CD.

Solo guitar recorded live at The Subversive Workshop, June - July 2009.

In memory of Grum.



to write a review

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beautifully dark
Full disclosure: Jeff and I are friends and occasionally play together so this review is not completely objective. Most musicians/improvisors I know and have played with (including a few well established artists) have given me recordings of their music and I have enjoyed much of it but felt less than compelled to write/remark about it. I feel quite differently about this release and needed to share my impressions.
I purchased two copies of this limited release (only 50), hand-painted, numbered and signed c.d. I was lucky enough to get #2 & #3 in the series (I ordered the day they were released). Black and white orbs of varying dimension have been applied on the cardboard sleeve and a hand written track listing resides on the reverse. They are beautiful and unique due to the attention given during the painting phase of assembly.  I proudly display these side by side on my living room bookshelf.
Before reviewing the music I decided I would listen at least three times before writing anything: once in the order they are presented, then randomly selected and a final listen in original sequence with the headphones.
The overall sound is very consistent and has a somewhat flat eq throughout. This neutral frequency response induces a feeling of distance and made me feel like I was floating above the music. This sonic buffer zone is an integral element in this recording: the music does not want you too close, it needs some space to communicate (although it does so with an economy of language). This may be in part due to the recording mechanics: a single hand-held digital recording device capturing the never- consistent components of guitar, amp and air. However, knowing McLeod, the sound is, as much as is possible, relating his state of mind while playing and mixing. Beyond the improvisational aspects (which, despite mastery of the tools/techniques, is never completely under one's control) the mood of this release is intentional and demonstrates McLeod's ability to convey emotion (diverse and often disturbing) without pretentious, overbearing artistic will.
The first track, Ever Stretching Shadow, is a skeletal dronescape with a few softly played and considerately chosen notes/chords. This piece is easily one of my favorites and sets up a narrative for the entire release: A graveyard of long-neglected ships, pitching gently in the grey murk, rusted hulls bobbing under colorless sky. This initial piece announces what is to follow: lonliness, sadness, longing, anxiety and death (physical and spiritual).
Next up is Lapse which is dotted with more dialogue and phrasing. This fills in a storyline for what you heard in the opening piece but never reveals too much. The familiarity resides in the fact that you now realize that this is an electric guitar playing notes. Beyond the recognition of instrumentation, the landscape is utterly foreign.
A Curse returns to a more subdued execution using sound-coloring to evoke an atmosphere of eventual, unavoidable suffering. I have very intentionally avoided using the 'minimalist' tag up to this point and only employ it now to get to the observation that most music weighted with that term is fucking boring because it avoids overt expression and simultaneously expects you to "get it". McLeod's approach succeeds because it is fearless in it's desire to provoke an emotional response within the listener.
With Distant Ships Sinking, McLeod confirms my nautical theme (although unintentionally) and allows the presence of notes and chords to once again remind us that we are hearing wire, wood and magnet. This piece is a literal translation of a ship's log documenting it's final hours; a crew coming to grips that no one will arrive to save them (us) and that often there is no other option but to let go.
Absent One prepares us for what we know is on the way...loss and the accompanying lonliness. Again, the guitar takes on a more traditional role except this time there is more space and emptiness between punctuation. The tone slices with precision and is more specific, there is no longer any doubt or illusion of salvation, it ain't gonna happen.
The Horror Approaches brings us to the unavoidable finality of death (in all of it's metaphorical disguises) but does so without anthemic fanfare or overwrought guitar trickery. The end comes quietly with the drone of atmosphere slowly drained of it's life sustaining qualities.
Unlike most music dealing in this dark trade, McLeod gets beyond mere catharsis into actual healing territory by leaving ultimate resolution with the listener. There are no solutions offered, no epic confrontations just the possibility that you will find meaning and beauty in the presence of difficult states of emotion.
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