One thing I know about Jenks Miller: he contains multitudes. With his Horseback project, the multi-instrumentalist (and member of Mount Moriah) fuses tropes from black metal, US roots music, psych rock, and dark ambient into original compositions that overflow with ideas and juxtapositions. If his synthesis of croaked Xasthur via Tom Waits vocals and near Nashville-core studio lushness was his only contribution to contemporary music, he’d still deserve some kind of zoner blue ribbon — but the man’s catalog is already deep with killer collabs, three full-length LPs, and a handful of way-sold-out tapes and 7-inches and stuff. If you’re not on his level, which is to say inside a secret mausoleum chamber at least 12 feet underground at the center of a sacred and super-haunted animal burial ground untouched by other humans for generations, you should probably try to get there now.
His upcoming solo “solo” (solo) album Spirit Signal seems like both a solid entry point for a Miller neophyte and a welcome change of pace for a well-versed head. The album’s six loose, improvised sessions showcase Miller’s guitar upfront, accompanied by detailed drone voices and a whole lot of open space. In some moments, his playing fits into the post-Dead Man drifting Morricone vibe mastered by Dylan Carlson in his more recent output; but in others, like the title track below, his playing escalates into a tightly controlled twang closer to the melodic comping of Bill Frisell or Marc Ribot (Miller’s labelmate on Northern Spy). Coming from a man who can proficiently record anything, the restraint Miller displays in these beautifully dry mixes attests to his sense for extreme dynamics on both sides of the spectrum.
Pre-order Spirit Signals from Northern Spy, and it’ll ship around its September 3 release date.