Daniel Bachman’s Axacan is less a guitar album as it is a patchwork of manipulated environmental sonic artifacts, arranged in the most evocative and atmospheric of ways.
Bachman took the field recordings and found sounds angle of 2018’s The Morning Star and evolved it into a higher form. Instead of decorating or setting the background of his music with ambient sounds, he now paints deep panoramic scenes with his samples. It’s like he’s taking the objects and atmospheres that he typically invoked through his impressionistic guitar playing, and utilizes recordings of them to now conjure the sounds and textures of his guitar work. With the help of various effects and editing techniques, Bachman made life imitate art. He has turned things like crickets, rusty tools dropping into dumpsters and dead trees into instruments, or part of one larger instrument.
Bachman sculpts these raw sounds and often distorts them into tones that harmonize with his guitar or a droning harmonium. He also blends in roughened radio samples, garbled bits of tape and heavily processed instrumentation to create disorienting soundscapes that are rich with the disturbing and anxious moods of our current pandemic-controlled society.
Just listen through “WBRP 47.5” for an intense example of that. A processed recording of a bending dead pine tree groans in harmony with a ghostly fiddle and electronic drone, while feverish radio chatter fades in and out almost in a panic. The tree produces a deeply haunting growl that hangs ominously over the track, like the specter of death, while reporters jabber out vague foreboding messages before assimilating back into the haze of white noise. If there’s a track out there that better captures the tension and confusion of our era, it might be too unsettling to even hear.
Elsewhere on the album, Bachman produces shimmering drone fests that almost take on spiritual-like qualities (“Blue Ocean 0”), decomposing earthy guitar solos (“Big Summer”) and some of the most blissfully vivid 12-string fantasias of his career (“Coronach”). The few places on this record where the artist does return to his guitar (sans effects), like the aforementioned “Coronach” and “Year of The Rat,” Bachman makes his instrument chime and sing with the rhythm of autumn winds and rustle with the texture of bare midwinter branches. His playing becomes a perfect mirror of the natural sounds that permeate throughout the rest of the LP.
However, make no mistake; this album cannot be sampled nor broken down into individual parts. Axacan is indeed the finest proof of the enduring need for the album format. These tracks must be heard together as a single, long listening experience. These songs were painstakingly shaped to flow liquid-like into one another as cohesive whole. So it’s essential to hear it within a single sitting, otherwise the emotional gut punch of this LP could lose some of its strength.
For one of the most dynamic and engaging sound collages of our era, any fan of experimental music and solo guitar needs to give Axacan a deep and concentrated listen. Click here to order your copy of the record ahead of its Friday release.