Album of the Day: Steve Gunn, “The Unseen In Between”

 

Steve Gunn has spent much of his career exploring the outer edges of guitar-driven music—see the spooky sketches on his 2015 collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers, or the knotty psychedelia he sculpts with drummer John Truscinski on 2017’s Bay Head. But in recent years—and on his new LP, The Unseen In Between—Gunn has matched his free-roaming guitar work with vocals, developing a tidy discography as a singer-songwriter to complement his chops as a far-out player and improviser.

In the live setting, Gunn moves his whole body, oscillating his shoulders as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other; the result is a little hypnotic, a little groovy, but entirely at ease. That same loose, rolling sensibility carries The Unseen In Between, abetted by light percussion, backing vocals by Meg Baird, and Gunn’s calm, patient picking. The songs feel like Saturday afternoon rural drives to nowhere in particular; “Morning Is Mended” is a sublime breath of fresh air, and the double-punch of mellotron and pedal steel make “Vagabon” a breezy delight.

Though the music here is relaxing, The Unseen In Between is far from sedate. Ragged electric guitar lines form fuzzy halos around the central acoustic melody of “New Familiar”; static tension splits closing track “Paranoid” in half before the song shifts toward a more open-ended finale. With The Unseen In Between, Gunn delivers his most sumptuous record yet, a healthy sprig of new growth amid his serpentine skills.

-Allison Hussey

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