Citing influences from Brian Eno to Jerry Garcia to Erik Satie, Matt Borghi sits down with his guitar and effects to pour out soulful, jazzy lines over subtle pads on Ambient Guitar. Although the title might suggest you’re in for nothing but drift and layers, this is a different kind of ambient. Borghi’s slow-handed, folksy style (there’s the Garcia influence peering through) is at the forefront, picking out beautiful melodies complemented by the washes and drones beneath it. The resultant sound is warm and relaxing and honest. Borghi crunches 11 tunes into 37 minutes, but it’s a pretty blissful 37 minutes that quickly becomes 74, which becomes 148… The core of this album is its apparent simplicity. Borghi isn’t trying to do a lot. He sets his ambient beds, gets them shifting and interacting, then kicks back to play his songs over them. The equation remains the same throughout. It’s the face of each piece that changes, the way Borghi chooses to express the melody. As he notes, this is the way he plays when doing his “jambient” work with Michael Teager. (If you have not done so, you need to check out their excellent albums Convocation, Shades of Bending Light, and Awaken the Electric Air.) His style is crisp and deliberate, squeezing as much as he can from each note. I get caught up in the sweeps and trills on “The Snake,” which shows a little bit of blues fangs, especially in its first few moments. When he hits the low strings, it’s bliss for my bass-loving soul. The elegant curvature of the lines of “Belle Isle” come from easy runs along the neck, a sound that’s reminiscent of both the blues and a little Spanish guitar. On the aptly titled “Grace,” the background has a string section ease to it. The melody is bright and uplifting. Borghi plays with his sound as well. On “English Folk Song,” we first hear the melody through a haze, like it’s coming from far off. On the next pass he plays it clearly, punctuated with muted, wavering chords. He repeats the two passages once more, and lets it all fade, hanging the last note expectantly. The entire track is only about two minutes long, but the smart construction of it makes it memorable. “Pamela” is mostly unadorned, perhaps just a touch of delay to go with the looping. Borghi forgoes the processed pads and instead opts for stacked guitar lines. The folk influence is strong here and once again the clean simplicity really shines.
There’s apparently no end to the charm of Ambient Guitar. On the day I wrote this review, it was literally the only album I listened to, over and over. Never once did I feel like I’d heard enough–and remember, it’s just half an hour long. Borghi’s style is so pure and resonant, sharp and defined, it doesn’t wear thin. This is just a pleasant bit of work to dig into. Unassuming and very effective. A great release from Matt Borghi.
Available from Matt Borghi’s web site.