Loren Connors The Hymn of the North Star

[Family Vineyard; 2007]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: avant-garde, experimental, improvisational, blues
Others: Tony Conrad, Alan Licht, Phillip Glass, Son House, John Fahey, Derek Bailey

Over the course of three decades, Loren Connors has persevered by showcasing his guitar prowess while transforming the man-with-guitar genre into a masterful form of expressionism. Behind Connors' latest crown jewel, The Hymn of the North Star, the science is subtlety.

The Hymn of the North Star isn't much different from his other gems, relying on fragile plucks to create an illusive soundtrack; this minimalistic approach is nothing new for Connors. Though The Hymn of the North Star doesn't reinvent the solo guitar album, its whispered tones and sparse arrangements are not run-of-the-mill tactics employed just for effect. Each track is part of a greater whole; Connors explores the terra firma of conductor and composer. He plays with the space between sounds, transforming signature blues progressions and licks into experimental pieces in which isolated guitar bellows clash with the muted white noise of needle on vinyl. This push-pull envelops the entire album, rendering individual tracks insignificant in and of themselves.

The beauty of previous Loren Connors albums is that you can pick different tracks to match your different moods. The Hymn of the North Star allows for no such cherry-picking, with Connors' guitar dictating a single, pervasive atmosphere and mood. Such an album would crumble in the hands of a lesser talent, but Loren Connors, ever the artist, has always shown a delicate touch, whatever his subject matter. The Hymn of the North Star is as fragile as they come, but Connors turns it into a 30-minute operatic piece, using just faint strands of guitar and bass to mesmerize us.


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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