Important Records’ press materials for The Watchers call the collaborative LP “historic,” and I don’t think this is a hyperbole: James Blackshaw and Lubomyr Melnyk may have created a Holy Grail of Shred. “Holy” in that the album contains four gorgeous, pastoral duets for 12-string guitar and piano. “Shred” in that these performers can play their instruments with insane speed and technicality. If you said “Mukqs, name for me 20 digits that perform with more precision than most other digits worldwide,” I could reasonably select the 20 fingers of these two men. But that’s just one part of the package: both have proven themselves brilliant composers over the course of their prolific careers.
How’d the stars of shred ever manage to align like this, you ask? According to Blackshaw, he first witnessed a Melnyk set at a festival in 2008 and the two became quick buds (virtuosbros), eventually coming together in early 2012 to record this album’s improvisations over the course of one six-hour session.
On the album’s last track, “Haftorang,” we hear Blackshaw and Melnyk cycle together through descending chord progressions and take turns discovering new melodies, all while cramming each beat with a deluge of cascading notes. The result is a dense, post-minimalist shimmer of tone and texture — a new incarnation of Melnyk’s trademark “continuous music” with two times the fingers keeping the waves rolling and pulsing.
Allow Important Records to continue taking over your life and your bank account and order The Watchers on LP or CD. It’s available now.