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Album Review

A Montreal based-performer with connections to the Constellation record collective, Harris Newman isn't trying to sound like the most well-known avatar from that city, Godspeed You Black Emperor!. If anything Non-Sequiturs is an enjoyable polar opposite focusing in on Newman's abilities on acoustic guitar, backed with percussion on various songs from fellow Montreal performer Bruce Cawdron. Much like Newman's labelmate on Strange Attractors, German performer Steffen Basho-Junghans, Newman is inspired by any number of intriguing forebears in American avant-folk of the 20th century. Though John Fahey is an obvious and acknowledged reference point (and perhaps ultimately inescapable given his impact on instrumental folk music), Newman's debut release calls to mind other performers as well, and proves as enjoyable a reinterpretation and revival as any. On its own merits, Non-Sequiturs runs the gamut, from soothing, bluesy contemplation, to quick, exquisite fingerpicking, finding a rich glaze of notes in songs like "Bitten" and "Throwing the Goats." The stop-start approach of "Trick Question," while it may not seem initially striking, captures the quiet moments so well as the notes fade into a quiet hum. Cawdron proves to be a sharp collaborator, often adding muffled or murky beats and stomps that add a distant atmosphere without necessarily trapping the recording in a prison of tremulous period recreation. If anything, the sense of depth added on songs like "The Bullheaded Stranger" does in fact suggest the sweep of Newman's city contemporaries, but not at the expense of his own vision. The slow lapsteel twang and bowed cymbal combination of "God Is in the Details" is a beauty, like Thomas Köner caught somewhere on the open range, while the nearly quarter-hour long "Forest for the Trees" is an extended chance for the two to play off each other in a sometimes nervous and edgy interweaving of low rumbles and quick picking.

Non-Sequiturs, Harris Newman
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