Styles: wow! guitars!
Others: Ecstatic Sunshine, Ponytail, Steve Reich
Infinite Love is Dustin Wong’s second solo release of the year and his Thrill Jockey debut. Amid a growing catalogue of emphatic guitar performances with Ecstatic Sunshine, Ponytail, and on his lonesome, it’s a release that boils over with exceptional musical and conceptual exuberance. Structurally, it’s a double LP composed of two related album narratives sharing the same A-side and final three tracks. Wong characterizes them as twin ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ versions, each offering listeners different paths by which to travel from their shared beginnings to their shared ends. The records are further accompanied by a full-length DVD that can be played along with either of the two arcs, and select packages come with so-called “Golden Tickets,” redeemable for a private Skype concert performed by the man himself.
These gestures might be just flimsy window dressing if the music weren’t at the heart of the proceedings, but their sense of playfulness and encouragement for listeners to explore and engage with Infinite Love is entirely bound up in the instrumental performances captured here. Wong is primarily a guitarist, and with the exception of a couple short, spare drum machine appearances, the album makes this clear by featuring his highly composed six-string constructions exclusively. Built around repetitive, melodic figures layered on top of one another to form dizzying, orchestral swarms of tones and timbres, the songs are almost incomprehensibly complex. Although effects pedals are at work throughout Infinite Love, many of its textural elements arise simply from the rhythmic density of attacked notes and chords, a phenomenon which calls to mind both Wong’s work with Matthew Papich on the first Ecstatic Sunshine album and the clean guitar interplay on The Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms.
It’s extremely technical stuff, marvelously fast, and so rhythmically precise that it generates momentum with ease, and many of the songs are notably driving for music without any traditional percussion on hand. But Wong’s compositions are also melodious, groovy, and relatively concise, as liable to inhabit your hips and heart as they are to tickle your brain. When he aims high, soaring, strawberry-hued leads rear up from the unraveling tangles of arpeggios and things get airborne quickly. In his more wistful moments, Wong writes and plays with a tenderness that’s featherlight, each track exuding warmth in generous measure.
It’s this generosity that ties the whole enterprise together. Wong’s enthusiasm for composing, for performing, for sharing his work with listeners and imagining or reimagining just how that exchange might take place, is not only palpable, but also infectious. It’s clear there’s a lot of, well, love on Infinite Love. And it’s exciting to share in it.