Stuart McCallum – Solitude
(Edition Records EDN1110. EP Review by Peter Jones)
Fans of the guitarist Martin Taylor, and anyone who liked Pat Metheny’s 2003 album One Quiet Night, would certainly enjoy this new EP from Stuart McCallum, a leisurely follow-up to his album City, released by Naim in 2015.
At around that time McCallum was also making live appearances with Slowly Rolling Camera, but some of us were alerted to his distinctive electric guitar style during his many years with the Cinematic Orchestra. The clue to his music lies in that name: it has an intensely visual quality. On this collection of five solo acoustic tunes, he has been inspired by the wild landscapes of the north-east, and to these ears he seems to capture them beautifully.
Why acoustic guitar this time? In an interview about his recent musical partnership with Mike Walker (who also taught him), McCallum puts it down simply to a desire to "reset" his outlook on playing the guitar, whilst gradually reintroducing the electronics.
All the new pieces on this EP were improvised in the studio. Most are played straight, but Farne, the last (and longest) track employs looping effects to create hypnotic serial music reminiscent of Philip Glass. Others, such as Alnmouth and Craster, employ the sort of Rodrigo-like flourishes we associate with flamenco, albeit with sparing echo effects, whilst Saltburn is more folky. Newton starts out in similar vein, evolving slowly into something more ethereal.
With its understated beauty and restrained emotional power, Solitude encourages repeated listens.