Matthew J. Rolin never ceases to push against the boundaries of solo guitar music and this has never been more evident than on his newest solo LP, The Dreaming Bridge.
This staggering double LP, out now on Feeding Tube Records, finds Rolin exploring new sonic horizons. He fingerpicks behind ghostly saxophones (provided by Patrick Shiroishi), fully bathes in an orchestra of singing bowls and experiments with Appalachian and hammered dulcimer duets with his partner, Jen Powers. As the record spins, you never know what sort of sound could emerge next.
Rolin’s exquisite guitar playing has never sounded so naturally rich with emotion as it does here. The achingly sympathetic tones and bluesy string bends that he employs makes each song hit on a genuinely personal level. Even the tracks with heavily electric guitar feel connected to the artist on a gut-level.
This is perhaps most evident on the tender “Drown.” The song starts off simple and quiet enough, but the gale of notes becomes deeper and more wistful. It feels as though you’re descending further down into a sea of darkness. Yet, towards the end, the guitar begins to take on a brighter and more optimistic tone, like you’re clawing your way back to the light. By the time you reach song’s climax and the total bliss that fills the following song (“When I Could See”), you get the feeling that some sort of personal tragedy had been overcome.
Another excellent example of this is the cathartic title track. “The Dreaming Bridge” is a howling 20-minute epic of over-modulated electric fingerpicking that slowly builds with a thunderous cloud of droning distortion and a rising sense of victorious positivity. Towards the song’s end, the stormy rumblings of Rolin’s instrument fade away, leaving just the glistening sound of his amplified strings being plucked ever so carefully and cleanly. It’s like every down moment on the record was leading up to this track, aiming to be cleansed by its purifying vibe. The song is also bookended by the sound of pouring rain, so the ending makes the listener feel as though they’ve been baptized by the music and can now embark on a renewed life.