June 26, 2006
Robin Guthrie "Continental"
To say that Robin Guthrie is an influence on a portion of the music world is a vast, vast understatement. Traces of his distinctive guitar style, formed when he was the mastermind behind the Cocteau Twins, can be found in a list of artists way too numerous to mention in one review. You can hear his influence in the releases of labels like 4ad, Morr Music, and Kranky—not to mention his new label, Darla--but you can also find elements of his style (if not his actual MUSIC) in the most unlikely of places, such as the soundtracks to detective dramas like CSI and Without a Trace. (My original review was simply a list of thirty or so artists that Guthrie has influenced, with the final line being 'the man who made these records has a new album out.' It made sense.)
Continental, his second solo album, departs from the more ambient departure of his debut Imperial. Though that record was good, Guthrie seemed to purposefully avoid the elements that made him famous, and the absence was glaringly obvious. But with Continental, Guthrie and his guitar are exploring the sounds that people (myself included) have come to expect from him for nearly three decades. Some might think that making a record that's so unsurprising from what he might have done would be a bit of an insult, but really, it's not. Listening to the shimmering guitars of "Monument" and "As I Breathe" and every other song on this record, it's like taking a trip back in time, back to the moment you heard Victorialand for the first time. I was expecting a pretty record, but I wasn't expecting something this wonderful. If you choose to take it as a sign, writing this review has been the hardest thing I've ever had to write, because I simply didn't feel as if I was capturing the record's purity of essence. (I still don't feel like I'm fully describing Continental's beauty, but I'm just going to have to live with it.)
Continental is the most unsurprising record I've heard all year. It's also one of the best records I've heard all year. I have no qualms in saying that it could very well be the best record of 2006. It's good to have a new Robin Guthrie record—it's been too, too long.
Listen To: "The Day Star"
Listen To: "Continental"
For more excellent songs, check out Guthrie's Myspace page.