Gwenifer Raymond – You Never Were Much of a Dancer

Although the first track on this debut from Welsh-born American primitivist Gwenifer Raymond introduces things with a weary violin line in front of some subtle field recordings, it doesn’t take long before she demonstrates her picking skills. ‘Sometimes there’s Blood’ is a complex, urgent piece of playing that, instead of a fairly typical heavily thumbed bass string holding things down, rings out a higher string, amplifying the sense of anxiety and menace the track suggests. Things stay dusty for ‘Idumea’, a banjo track played in the claw-hammer style, bringing to mind Appalachian music brought straight from the mountains. The structure of the piece uses subtle repetition and drone playing, sounding much like a tune from Nathan Bowles’s A Bottle, A Buckeye set.

‘Off to see the Hangman, Part II’ feels like a companion piece to ‘Idumea’, in that it employs a similar cyclical technique to build a piece with hypnotic qualities that in turn lulls the listener and jolts them with a barrage of harsh guitar. It is clever playing and a lesson in restraint that takes some players a career to find. A couple of short smart pieces keep the momentum and freshness going; ‘Face Down Strut’ is a Fahey-esque rattle that holds a quick melody for a minute and a half before jumping out and introducing ‘Laika’s Song’, a prettier and more considered travel tune that is so welcome it’s a shame it doesn’t quite hit two minutes.