A great record takes you outside of yourself and reorganizes your world until it feels like you’re in a different environment, a different season, a different age. It’s rare to come across an album that manages to both get inside of you and force you further out of yourself, into some new expanse, but this one achieves both. Ambsace sounds like winter has always been approaching, like Indian summer never quite fades, like fall isn’t built around loss. James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg have made a record about chance and memory, telling stories completely in guitar vignettes that communicate universal archetypes wordlessly. But the quirks of the players themselves don’t get lost, even in a project with such a magnificent scope Little, knowing smirks like titling a track “Great Big God Of Hands” — when all our habits lead us to believe it should read “great big hands of God” — are scattered throughout, pointing like clues to the men who made this record. Then again, who would be more likely to worship a God of hands than two nimble-fingered guitar obsessives?
Prior to the full album stream, we’ve also heard the dreamy, winding “Up Of Stairs” (more wordplay), and their dizzying cover of the Smiths “Reel Around The Fountain.” This record is stocked with both original compositions and re-imaginations of pre-existing songs. Their version of “Fleurette Africaine” is another recasting, Duke Ellington’s shivering, skeletal piano rephrased into golden, round guitar chords and eerie dissonance. It’s possibly the best song on the album, and one of the best translations from piano to guitar ever done. Their original work tends to be a bit more jolly or rollicking, even if it resonates with deeper, existential understandings. This is instrumental work, so you’ll have to bring your own language to the record, even if all the emotion is already there, waiting for you to jump in. Listen.
Ambsace is out 9/18 via Paradise of Bachelors. Pre-order it on iTunes or directly from the label.