Still picking after all these years
Reviewed October 2010
By Toulouse Engelhardt
Lost Grove Records: 2010
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Toulouse Engelhardt's music is complex acoustic fingerpicking, mostly on 12-string guitars, recorded in layers; an ethereal, floating cloud of notes that are meant to transcend and uplift. He has been playing for a long time, as he broke onto the scene as a latter-day acoustic sensation in the footsteps of Leo Kottke in 1975 when recording for Takoma Records. He released a disc in 2005, "Martian Lust," that re-ignited his career, and he is back with "Perpendicular Worlds."
The new album is divided into two suites, "Inner Space" and "Outer Space." The former contains seven parts that feature torrents of picked and speed-strummed 12-string coming from both speakers. The sound is interesting and has form. The first piece, "Xel-Ha," has a nicely lyrical 6-string melody played over the background, and "Toullusions of 'Anji'" launches from the familiar Davey Graham picker tune into some furious harmonics and free-form high-fret strum jamming. There are spots on the disc when Engelhardt mixes in the metronome he uses to check his rhythm, unusual since he sounds good enough to not need one; he has a real good right hand in evidence throughout.
The second suite here doesn't contain a big musical shift, but contains a cover of "Third Stone from the Sun" by Jimi Hendrix that catches the ear. This song makes use of the original's Spanish-vibe bass line and rhythm guitar riff to good effect, as Engelhardt manages to capture the essence of it in a short, finger-picked version. "Albert's Gyroscope" and "Exceder la Velocite de la Lumiere" are other memorable moments from the disc's second half. The former mixes chiming 12 string melody lines with speed strums very well; the latter has a percussionist (which would have been a good idea elsewhere) and Engelhardt flies all over the neck, sounding like an Indian raga.
Acoustic guitar enthusiasts will enjoy "Perpendicular Worlds," as Toulouse Engelhardt is making music here that is not sonic wallpaper, but manages to be musically intriguing without being a dissonant experiment or an ego-filled jam session.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.