e/i Magazine Review

KING NEVER Lullabies & Sleepless Nights: Ambient Guitar Noise Volume Two (March 2007)

One man, a guitar, and a signal processor. Judging by what’s on display here, Matt McCabe is an ardent disciple of the Frippertronics school, a self-made string-stylist whose compact instrument rack belies a measure of cool guitar craft that is, surprisingly enough, little seen in this optimizing age of the laptop. Lullabies & Sleepless Nights repudiates the software varnishing of chaps such as Fennesz or Orem Ambarchi, guitarists who prefer their axes bleed into amorphous drones that actively sap the essence of their origins. Shifting motifs and moods often within the same piece, exercising a measure of compositional restraint even when he strikes out with playfully anarchic phrases, McCabe is more fearless than his colleagues, judiciously experimenting with tonal color but unafraid to let his guitar be guitar. His mimesis is somewhat obvious—Fripp & Eno, Andy Summers’ first album on Private Music—yet Lullabies’ influences hardly diminish its resultant brio. “First Light” is one of the charmers, a distant cousin to F&E’s “Evening Star,” McCabe draping a loop of fading luminescence behind a moaning chord bending to and fro in the breeze of twilight. “Beautifully Broken” and “The Quiet Hour” use ascending/descending electronic figures that make for some sad but lovely time passages, elegant preludes so inviting that the stunted bulldozer lurches of “Interrupted” seem uncharacteristically jarring but are well in form within the music’s context. It is at this point that McCabe splits the disc in two: hereafter, he repeats the odd cacophonic bleat (“The End of Never,” “Almost Asleep”) amidst loopscapes that soar between contemplation (“Chaos of Day Fades to Night) and geographic isolation (“Night of a Thousand Worries”). Small discography notwithstanding, McCabe’s minimalist glossalalia impresses enough to nearly eclipse that of his spiritual forebears.

— DARREN BERGSTEIN (e/i Magazine)