With Robin Guthrie, people generally know what to expect. To elaborate on what I mean, he is the legendary guitarist for the seminal Cocteau Twins, the pioneers for the “shoegaze” sound. His light atmospheric electric guitar is the tag he sprays in whatever alley of musical expression he finds himself in. On his first of four solo albums to be released by Darla Records, Continental is no exception. This instrumental album separates itself from the rest of his work mainly because of the absence of Liz Fraser’s lyrics. But more than that, Guthrie builds upon his instrumental style from Imperial. Also, Continental has a sort of jubilant hard rock feel to it that was hinted upon in Guthrie’s time with the Cocteau Twins. In this sense, Continental does not limit itself to just one location upon the musical spectrum. Like Guthrie’s trademark ethereal guitar, Continental is omnipresent, surrounding, and constantly in flux.
The album’s title track, “Continental,” is the dew settling on blades of grass through a saturated night. The vapors slowly coalesce and finally form something concrete as the sun is rising at the songs climax, but molecules dance into formation is music in itself. If “Continental” is the night’s progression, then “Crescent” is the dawn. The celebratory chants at the rise of another day highlight the song’s twilight. The next track, “Monument,” doesn’t beat around the bush and goes into the lush center of Guthrie’s nebulous style as the density of the track shrugs right up against the shoulders of the listener. “Day Star” is the album’s stylistic highlight as slams right into a harder conventional rhythm, something unconventional for Guthrie, but finds a way to seep its way out, taking the airy backing rhythm with it, evaporating into the next track.
Many people are apprehensive to pick up an instrumental album because their mislabeled reputation of being repetitive and plain. Guthrie’s experimentation with building a song to its climax and dense musical structure does away with this notion. This is the kind of music that defies staleness, constantly demanding the listener to contemplate.
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
Manual – Azure Vista
James Plotkin – A Peripheral Blur