Charles Saufley—Gear Editor
What do you do when you get in a guitar rut—buy a new phaser? Ben Chasny decided to invent a whole new freaking system for approaching the instrument. While the esoteric origins of the system run deep, it is fundamentally rooted in letting chance reconfigure the fretboard and guide composition. He field-tested the system first on Hexadic I, an electric, often heavy band piece. Hexadic II, however, represents a more focused, personal, acoustic-based application of the system. Not surprisingly, the results sound unlike any other guitar record out there, and the songs weave like tendrils of vine around a lattice made up of Morton Feldman’s modern minimalism, Japanese koto pieces, and Eastern European folk melodies.
One of these days Emmett Kelly—long the right-hand man and guitar slinger for Bonnie Prince Billy, and now Ty Segall’s Muggers—will receive his due as one of the most versatile and classy guitar players alive. This LP, performed and sung almost entirely by Kelly, also showcases his protean voice and formidable songwriting chops. This particular batch of songs veers from ecstatic Meet the Beatles! and Beau Brummels-inflected pop jewels peppered with Herb Ellis-meets-George Harrison chord moves, to Guided by Voices-style nuggets that sound conceived by some lonely genius plying his craft in a dim garage at the end of a lost suburban cul-de-sac.
Honorable mentions: Flying Saucer Attack’s Instrumentals 2015, Laura Cannell’s Beneath Swooping Talons, Peacers’ Peacers, Daniel Bachman’s River, Howlin Rain’s Mansion Songs, Kurt Vile’s B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down…, Sir Richard Bishop’s Tangier Sessions, Kelley Stoltz’s In Triangle Time, Moon Duo’s Shadow of the Sun