As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once-obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to shed a bit of light and share a bit of information on the up and coming sounds of artists such as James Blackshaw.
The work James Blackshaw has amassed on his 12-string continues to dazzle with his Young God debut, The Glass Bead Game. Overflowing with epic melodies in its all too brief 50-minute playtime, The Glass Bead Game finds Blackshaw delving deeper into the medieval melodies and ideas that he and longtime friend and collaborator, Jozef Van Wissem, have mined in The Brethren of the Free Spirit.
Don’t be fooled by such intimidating descriptions — James Blackshaw does not make music out of pretense or arrogance. Each time out, Blackshaw is determined to be a mirror, reflecting back your mood in his music. It speaks to the power of Blackshaw’s foresight that no matter your demeanor, his melodies will work their steely magic. The Glass Bead Game, not to be confused with the work of Herman Hesse (though it proves to be as mythic and meditative as the Hesse classic), finds Blackshaw transforming his agile fingers and unbreakable nails into angelic plucks — not far removed for the works of the winged ones floating in snow-white clouds.
What is new to the Blackshaw canon are two piano-centric pieces, “Fix” and “Arc”, that happen to find Blackshaw’s fingers working without hesitation, as if muses were communicating through them as their vessels. Every song Blackshaw crafts seems to carry itself as grandiose but as debonair as his work may be, it is never overwrought. Consider it chamber music for an indie generation in need for a little class without the foul stench of entitlement. The Glass Bead Game does not require party dresses and top hats, just an appreciation for music that doesn’t base melody and substance in 3-minute love letters and hook-laden pop songs, though you can still crack open a PBR and eat Easy Cheese to it.
Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist who also runs the webzine, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He writes the Monday News Mash-Up and Thursday edition of Song of the Day for the KEXP Blog. You can now follow him on Twitter.