Improv folk artist Michael Chapman comes through with another of his free form releases, this one following-up the resilient 'Pachyderm', which relied on one steady chord to create a minimal ambient landscape. 'The Polar Bear' brings in flourishes on other acoustic instruments such as piano and cello, while still maintaing Chapman's sparse guitar overtones.
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The first sound that emerges is a slightly wheezy breathing as 73 year old Michael Chapman prepares to start picking out beautiful lush chords on his trusty acoustic guitar. The picking gets more intense and is joined by some exquisite cello which wraps itself around the music like a blanket.
Michael Chapman is not like all the rest. His career has veered between smooth folky singer-songwriter gear to incredible rolling instrumental work such as that collected on the magnificent, essential ‘Trainsong’ compilation. More recently he has dabbled in noise experimentation and collaborated with Thurston Moore. This noise side gets an airing on the title track with its weird undulating guitar hums. On the nine minute ‘Black Dirt On a Hot Day’ he collaborates with Steve Gunn on a dusty desert-y guitar jam. You can feel the sun hot on your back. Five songs in and its clear that this album isn’t going to stick to one of Chapman’s signature styles. Instead, its going to veer between them. The eerie abstract tones of ‘Razorback Hat’ is followed by the lovely guitar and cello wanderings of ‘The Old Inertia Reel’ which in turn is followed by the horrific noise of the Thurston Moore collaboration ‘Six, Two. Thirteen’.
I’m only marking the album down because these lengthy abstract jams are too much for me and just jar against the rustic plaintive instrumentals elsewhere on the record. However, Chapman is unique, he’s one of us, a Yorkshireman, the best guitarist I’ve ever had the fortune of being in the same room as and should be justly celebrated.
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- The Polar Bear by Michael Chapman
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