Daniel Bachman Credit: Greta Svalberg

Virginia guitarist Daniel Bachman regularly demonstrates curiosity and practice outside of the hazy contours of the American Primitive style of acoustic guitar made famous by John Fahey. While those excursions have been limited and discreet—and he’s generally veered back to his comfort zone—they’ve neverthless indicated his admirably restless creative streak. He dives in completely on his dazzling new double album The Morning Star (Three Lobed), masterfully complementing his stellar guitar work with an array of sounds including mesmerizing drones and environmental presences that together foster a turbulent kind of meditation. The side-long opener, “Invocation,” does exactly what its title promises, weaving resonant singing bells, recordings of AM radio, harmonium, guitar, and fiddle drones (played by guest Forrest Marquise) into a visceral blend that intensifies as it goes on. The piece doesn’t so much move from one point to another as take stock from a single spot, continuously exploring a matrix of gritty sounds formed by an ever-shifting balance of elements. Though that description might suggest the music is dry, I’ve been sucked into its sonic cauldron with every listen. On “Sycamore City,” Bachman’s crisp, propulsive picking is submerged within the buzz of cicadas and passing traffic. “Car” bypasses guitar altogether, serving up a noisy, abrasive organ drone with snippets of raving radio evangelists; it seems to be signaling some kind of ominous portent, especially with its abrupt ending. That’s followed by “Song for Setting Sun III,” a solo guitar piece that might pass as a benediction for the planet; its tender, resonant articulation is a thing of pure humanity, but the sound of a wailing siren from a passing vehicle, left in deliberately, lends it an ominous air. The Morning Star is far and away Bachman’s most ambitious effort yet, and it certainly suggests there’s more ambition to come.   v