Drew Gardner is releasing his first solo album today on Eiderdown Records, and it is every bit as strong and essential as anything he had ever released in his duo, Elkhorn.
Recorded at Black Dirt Studios by the enormously talented Jason Meagher, this album of tight improvisations features Gardner on electric guitar, Garcia Peoples’ Andy Cush on bass and Ryan Jewell on drums. Within each song, the power trio sets a specific tone as their guide, and then sprawl out within those parameters, adding all sorts of color and texture to the piece.
The group plays at a drifting, methodic pace, often sounding like what you’d hear in the transition of “Dark Star” into “Space” at a mid-70’s Grateful Dead show, with spectral guitar solos needling through a cloud of celestial percussion. While the jamming is firmly within the realm of rock, outside elements creep into the performances and bend them into fairly unique directions. For example, shades of Middle Eastern music can be felt in the rhythm of “Cloud Gate,” and John Lee Hooker-like blues guitar influences abound in the humid “Bird Food” and “Marie Sharp’s.”
Every track here is a major standout, and the album is best heard in a single sitting (as all good albums should), but if there’s one song that could be the beating heart of the record, it’s the sublime “The Road to The Eastern Garden.” This song slowly unravels itself like the earliest moments of daylight at dawn. Throughout its five-minute runtime, tendrils of smoky guitar curl and stretch out in a mist of quiet shimmering cymbals, while Cush’s bass ventures boldly at the top of the mix. The song goes from meditative and serene to the downright spiritual once Jewell introduces some twinkling bells and chimes. You can practically smell the sacred incense burning by the end of the track.
Spacious, dreamy and nothing short of transcendent, this is one of the finest records to emerge from the world of improvised music in recent memory. Be sure to get your copy from Eiderdown Records today.