Since at least as far back as 2018’s The Morning Star, Virginia guitarist and soundscapist Daniel Bachman has been allowing more space between the music he actively makes and that which once defined his earlier works. From his early twenties, he made a name for himself as an American primitivist guitarist in the tradition of John Fahey or Robbie Basho, with an increasing tendency toward lengthier drones and raga-influenced hypnotic sustain. Over time, the pluck and sweep of steel strings has given way to heavier sheets of electronics and glitching effects, the sound of a corrupted nth generation recording of Americana offering only fleeting glimpses of the more direct and immediate folk that comprised his own early catalog.
On last year’s Almanac Behind, a distorted and abstract weather-focused quilt of field recordings and lo-fi instrumentals, Bachman pursued that idea to its farthest limits. When the Roses Come Again doesn’t feel as if it’s intended to pivot off that idea so much as it’s in conversation with that record and, more broadly, all of Bachman’s work to date. He composed and recorded each of its songs with traditional American folk instruments, like an aluminum pot banjo he bought on eBay, then put them through various layers of effects and processing after the fact, its seamless sequence of music like that of a patchwork of samples stitched together with hum and static.
At its simplest, When the Roses Come Again is a showcase for Bachman’s own beautifully meditative playing, moments like “Leaves lying on each side” a stark flutter of plucked strings that rush in like a soothing breeze. Yet such relatively straightforward moments are few and far between, Bachman sounding not like he’s playing these instruments so much as channeling them via seance, building a majestic and resonant series of drones on “By the river, flowers shiver (Fading dying in their pride)”, setting distressed guitar recordings against a thumping heartbeat pulse on “I must leave you someone’s saying,” and employing simple banjo arpeggios as a foundation upon which to build an ultimately grander and more cinematic piece with “On a summer over yonder (with joy to you and I)”. By the end of side two standout “Someone’s Roaming In the Gloaming,” the suggestion of inclement weather on the horizon becomes a full-blown storm, white noise turning to majestic walls of distortion.
Bachman has said that When the Roses Come Again was inspired by cycles of birth, death and renewal, his music not just in conversation with itself, but with more than a century of American roots music. It’s an album that speaks through the instruments of folk and bluegrass musicians before him, Bachman both resurrecting sounds of generations upon generations and filtering them through states of distortion and decay. It just as often channels the haunted frequencies of Tim Hecker’s ambient disintegration as it does traditional acoustic music. When the Roses Come Again is a breathtaking meditation on past, present and future, the terrestrial realm and the beyond, drawing beauty from that which has faded, wilted and returned to the earth.
Label: Three Lobed
Buy this album:
Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums we cover are chosen by our editors and contributors.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.