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In and Out of Time
Artist: Jason Carter
Time: 10 Tracks / 47 mins
I have been highly impressed with Carter’s inventive, boundary-pushing acoustic guitar-based music since discovering his Helsinki Project a few years ago. His art reflects his life, and as he regularly gigs in parts of the world that many people don’t even think of going to – like Afghanistan, Dubai, Brunei, North Korea – and has moved his base from England to Finland, that music is often tinted with the exotic.
Carter has been dropping occasional videos of this collection since getting his harp guitar, an acoustic with a large arm coming from the top, which adds a second section of strings that can be played with a bow. What has disappointed me somewhat is how much those recent pieces have shown little of the unique innovative approach of the last two discs. His live work is inevitably going to be simpler and more stripped down – there is only one of him, after all – but even here he has recently tended towards a repetitive tap-and-slap approach that misses the improvisational and free-flowing intricacies of which he is well capable.
So it was pleasing to see that In and Out of Time actually does include more delicacy and refinement. The lovely first track, “Almost Home,” is surprisingly subdued for an opener, and conveys well that tiredness, longing for a place of rest and – with its dashes of harmonics – spark of hope that the title implies. The album as a whole is quite reflective. “Hope and Waiting” is very serene and “Restless” drifts along with a tinkling, sparkly classical tone, the odd bass note and hints of flamenco giving it some breadth. “One” is minimalist and reflective, with a stronger flamenco spirit.
Adding a touch of familiarity, Carter uses the harp guitar to pay tribute to his adopted homeland with “Sibelius’s “Finlandia.”
Some tracks leave me in two minds. I could do without the male vocal sample in ”Moments of Joy,” simply because it sounds like something left over from Helsinki Project and it distracts, rather than adding to, the guitar work. The female sample really lightens it, though. In “I Believe,” the percussive sample has a dull sonic edge. I can see why it’s there, but the overlapping rhythms in the rest of the piece may have interest enough without it. “Rubber Planet” and the title track are simple and pleasant as background, yet a bit repetitive, with little to really engage the spirit.
Across the disc, which comes in a basic cardboard sleeve, Carter is showcasing the harp guitar. This means few distractions and as resonant and rich a tone as he can capture. This is one for those who like their quiet guitar music to be sparse and straightforward.