Dean McPhee – Fatima’s Hand (Hood Faire Records)

Posted by vibrations on 19-08-15

This is Shipley guitarist and composer McPhee’s third release, and his second album release following his debut, 2011’s Son of the Black Peace. It’s not a back breaking work rate by any means, but music of this kind of languorous, clear and precise beauty rightly takes its time, and needs to be taken time with.

Initially, McPhee’s meditative, undemonstrative style is easy to interpret as being hesitant or withdrawn but the simple act of listening to what is being played soon reveals a rich and varied approach to structure, melody and a deep, if largely implied, pulsing sense of rhythm. The guitar tone used throughout is clear and exact, the merest hint of reverb and distortion seeming to make the notes shimmer, and McPhee’s delicate but emphatic fingerpicking allows the guitarist to exact the maximum effect from his chords and melodies. Although the five tunes here are precisely composed, there’s a palpable spontaneity to them which makes them always sound fresh and full of new possibilities even after repeated listens.

‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is a very detailed, richly structured sound painting gently smeared by sound trails left by the decay of slow delay; ‘Glass Hills’ is sparser and features a precisely picked out pattern that spirals ever, but unevenly, upward, and ‘Solar Crown’ is so unassuming it almost sneaks by unnoticed until the jazzy coda introduces a dreamy dislocation. The final two, and longest, pieces represent the highpoints of the album though: ‘Effigy of Clay’ sets up a frame made of high and low end drones within which McPhee draws a sparse but quietly insistent melodic sketch of notes, and finally the title track is a melodically and structurally complex composition that’s full of joy, playfulness and tenderness.

Describing this music as instrumental does it a disservice because it sings in a voice that is human in all but name. Music this good doesn’t need hyperbole – it just needs you to listen.

Steve Walsh

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