This meditative solo guitar album by Jeff Parker was recorded over two days in June 2021, mixed in a month and released a few months later. Quite a feat when you know how long most releases take these days to go from inception to finished product.
Parker was (and still is I guess) the guitarist in the cult post rock band Tortoise, one of the really important bands during my (halcyon) student years as they (alongside Labradford and a bunch of others) were influential, be it consciously or not, to broaden my tastes not only into a certain type of textural jazz, but also to the kind of freeform and expansive soundscapes I love to get lost into to this day.
On Forfolks, Parker is on his own with his guitar, pedals and effects being the only artifices. Not here to impress, the emphasis is on sound and texture rather than virtuosity. There’s a deeply hypnotic, levitating feeling induced by the throbbing drones, delicate melodies and multi-layered improvisations on display, even more so when listening to the set on repeat.
The album includes a splendid interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Ugly Beauty’ and a new version of ‘La Jetée’ (a tune he originally recorded in his post rock days with Isotope 217° in 1998), as well as four totally new loop-driven, stratiform works that marry melodic improvisation with electronic textures. ‘Excess Success’ for instance is one such cosmic delight, sounding altogether complex and yet so simple, minimal and yet so deep. One to get wrapped in and lost in sound.
With such spectacular releases including Angel Bat Dawid’s The Oracle, Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger’s Force Majeure, as well as those of Carlos Niño’s, the Chicago label International Anthem has been going from strength to strength, quietly fulfilling its mission “to make positive contributions to the changing state of the music industry, and to vitalise the demand for boundary-defying music by presenting unique sounds in appealing packages to untapped audiences”.