Review: Muster – _am_ (Slightly Off Kilter, Jan 10)

_am_ is Muster’s follow-up to debut tape Find a City to Live in on (fittingly) Invisible Cities, an album I could have sworn I’d at least mentioned on the site before, but it turns out that not only have I never namedropped the duo of James O’Sullivan and Dan Powell, I’ve also never used the word “muster” in any context. (Which is strangely unsettling, given I’m close to a thousand posts and every single one is filled with my thesaura regurgita you all seem to not hate.) That ends today, clearly, because even though I loved Find a City enough to pick up the tape after one listen, I think I might like _am_ even more. The first three shorter pieces were improvised remotely, each consisting of a solo recording by both O’Sullivan (guitar) in London and Powell (electronics) in Brighton that were subsequently responded to by the other and then combined. The approach doesn’t erase all of the collaborative momentum that makes the band’s in-person live sessions so compelling, far from it, but the layers of separation allow for a sort of intricate aimlessness to set in, and it’s amazing. “Verser” might be the best example, a brief but meticulously detailed bricolage of hypnotic tonal resonance, impatient dial-twiddling, and assorted scratches and scrapes that are like the track’s pholcidae legs. “On the Hoof” is the only cut to have been performed in real time, and its more spacious, sprawling, mercurial application of similar ideas is a great counterpoint on which to conclude.

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