This was recorded at the same time as last year's spectacular Pages on a Plane album (which is still in heavy rotation at my place), but takes things in a dramatically different direction. I dearly hope this new direction is merely a one-off experiment though, as Michael Jantz's current manic, maximalist psychedelia streak is decidedly not for me. Fortunately, there is one truly great "old-style" piece included that prevents Go Around, Again from leaving me totally exasperated.
While he has certainly diverged from my expectations in the past, I have always felt that the core of Jantz's aesthetic was a kind of warm, rustic Americana. I never expected Black Eagle Child to churn out acoustic guitar instrumentals forever, but I also never expected such a drastic shift in tone and approach. Somewhat perversely, Jantz's acoustic guitar remains prominent for this effort, but it is the backbone of an overwhelming one-man ensemble rather than the intimate focal point. That would not be a problem if the arrangements and compositions were more compelling, but on pieces like the 15-minute "Sun Cylinder," Michael endlessly flogs the same cheery motif and basically uses all the extra instrumentation solely for doubling and density. That piece is not a fluke either, as "Running Around the Room" follows a very similar trajectory. Texturally, Jantz has some good ideas, as the pieces are filled with spirited clopping and clapping, odd burbling, and twinkling xylophones, but it is not quite enough to prop up the fairly weak, one-dimensional material.
But then there is the simple, bittersweet banjo piece "Phrases of the Moon," which easily stands among Jantz's finest work. Despite featuring a thumping bass drum and a xylophone, it sounds nothing at all like the rest of the album, differing drastically in both mood and approach (opting for spaciousness rather than wall-of-sound layering). It is pretty much a perfect song in every regard, from the languorous melody to the subtle interplay between instruments to the quietly insistent maracas, yet it somehow manages to get even better around the halfway point due to the appearance of delay-heavy electronics that seem like lingering afterimages.
I think "Phrases" makes this album grudgingly mandatory for Black Eagle Child fans, but I found the other three songs to be pretty grating despite their occasional flashes of inspiration. All of the other reviews that I have read seem uniformly excited about Jantz's foray into wobbly, candy-colored exuberance though, so perhaps Michael is merely the hapless victim of my subjective aversion to happiness. I bet history will vindicate me though.
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