softLOUD: Music for Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Anon: Pieces from Scottish lute manuscripts; D Lang: killer; MacMillan: From Galloway; Motet I; James Oswald: Divertimento I; Reich: Electric Counterpoint; Wolfe: LAD
Sean Shibe (acoustic guitar, electric guitar)
Delphian DCD34213 56:18 mins
‘Have we today forgotten how to speak quietly and with grace; or is the real danger that we aren’t screaming loudly enough?’ asks Sean Shibe apropos this calculatedly provocative programme trading in bold juxtapositions. (Bolder, perhaps, had its elements been interleaved rather than corralled into distinct halves for acoustic and electric guitars.) Conceived for a world facing seismic political upheaval back in 2016, there’s no doubting that he himself is an artist blessed with grace to spare, and a roar that is fearsome – witness the opening section of Julia Wolfe’s LAD which screams into anguished life before cornering into lament, then frenzied catharsis. There’s no respite either with the fractured, obsessive dislocations of David Lang’s killer. Truly we’re worlds away from the beguiling harp-like sonorities with which Shibe had bathed an almost Arcadian snatch of 18th-century divertimento at the start of the disc.
Like Julian Bream before him, Shibe has a natural yet creative rapport with 17th-century lute music (here, four lesser-known Scottish collections). Both refract the music through a generous soundworld that demands you savour every note, whether surprisingly urgent and thrusting in Mervell’s Sarabande or disarmingly seductive as the Wemyss Manuscript commands ‘Ladie lie near me’. Transcriptions of two haunting miniatures by James MacMillan blossom out of a shared Scottish patrimony. And marking the transition from ‘soft’ to ‘LOUD’, Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint is despatched with tremulous, ear-opening brio, tingling precision and funky relish.