Robin Guthrie released two E.P.s, Mockingbird Love and Riviera, in October and December of last year. In between launching the long-player, Pearldiving. The guitarist / composer / producer / celebrated sonic auteur having begun breaking down his studio, and restarting, following the sad passing of his friend and long-term collaborator, Harold Budd in late 2020. Now comes Springtime, which went public on January 4th, Robin`s 60th birthday. Prior to this hyper productive patch, Robin`s last solo album was Fortune, in 2012. It`s hard not to jump to the conclusion that he’s working through the pain.
Robin handles everything, as is always the case on the music released under his own name, those trademark treated, tremolo`d, guitar tones float in layers of celestial sustain, while drums beat a slow march, waltz, dance. The press one-sheets all talk a lot about his signature sound. Well if you’ve got something that unique, that influential, why change it? On The Faraway, pedal steel twang, adds a country edge, backed by deliciously delicate picking. The synergy summoning wide-open spaces, say, for example a star-lit prairie night sky.
Everything echoes, of course, in levels of reverb that Brian Eno once described as “extraordinarily brave”. The piano and guitar singing in distinctive voices. Each telling the same story, but from a differing point of view. The keys muted in places, and mixed with a swirling organ sound. Combining on a quartet of elegant, emotive shorts.
The playing is perhaps more restrained than in the past. There’s no raw bursts of noise, no eruptions, no cathartic release. Nothing that betrays the heartbreak and the anger that was previously hiding there, within his beautiful music. Maybe Robin`s come to terms with his demons, drawn up a truce. Perhaps found some peace. So the techniques may not have been tampered with, but the execution has been tempered by time. Conveying a calm created by that 12-step adage of “change what I can, accept what I can`t.” There’s a real sense of someone damaged, who has managed to not just plaster, but rebuild over the cracks, to continue to create, with a new serenity. Taking it day by day. Understanding that this might be as good as it gets, and embracing, living with, that. Regaining grace, and some goodness. Not succumbing to sadness or regret.
Robin Guthrie`s Springtime E.P. is out now on Soleil Apres Minuit.