In the opening/title track of ambient guitarist Har’s release, Obscura, a repeated shimmering melody carries the quite-familiar feel of the start of any number of “classic” 80s hair-metal ballads. It works to establish that the majority of the sounds here come from guitar, Chapman stick, and eight-string bass (tabla and field recordings round out the list), played by someone who obviously knows his way around the strings. It’s also just about the last you’ll hear from an unprocessed, recognizable guitar on this excellent, atmospheric disc. Most of Obscura is crafted in filtered guitar that emerges as patient, rise-and-fall pads, as in the smooth, warm 13-minute flow of “Blue Searchlight.” I like the way this plays against the more solid guitar feel of the title track, giving us two distinct sides of Har’s style. Another emerges later in the disc–his dark side. With “Amelia,” Har unleashes some grim, dissonant washes and sinister-whisper sound-bites, then deconstructs it all to the point where it takes on the consistency of a fading memory. He carries the feel through the electro-windswept, abstract landscape of “The Neon Depths” before turning back toward the light for his closer, “The Forever Sleep (Teddy’s Song),” a touching and beautifully played tribute to a beloved pet that has passed on.
Har effectively uses sparse and subtle percussive elements on a couple of tracks to lift Obscura out of the pure-drone realm. But by and large it’s a beatless piece of work with Har choreographing the graceful interplay of his textures, forms and ideas. Each track stands perfectly on its own, while also acting as the well-thought-out parts of the larger whole. And that’s what makes Obscura a disc worth returning to for repeat listens, and a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.
Available from Har’s web site.