American axeman embraces environmental moods of a fresh landscape and sculpts paeans to his home.
There were quite a few changes in the life of Mark Vickness – brought about not only by the pandemic wickedness but also by more personal, and creative, matters: first, the guitarist moved from the Oakland to Owens Valley in late 2020, soon after his "Interconnected" had seen the light of day, and then switched from a solo mode to ensemble that the Californian’s sophomore effort lent its title to. The latter development could be perceived as strictly nominal, since most of the performers on “In The Rain Shadow” – some of them Grammy winners – played on Vickness’ previous record, yet there’s a different approach on display, as Mark’s colleagues are provided with an equal sonic prominence now which gives a lot more texture and color to the instrumental scenery they paint together.
These artists’ palette is stunningly vast, its ever-shifting scope best observed on the album’s centerpiece “Roadrunner” that veers between baroque, country and jazz without ever losing the elegiac wonder despite the tempo’s fluidity, and on the penultimate number “On The Cliffs Of Mohr” that soars towards the sun on the wings of a classical recital and rocking dynamics. To get there, though, the listener should stop and absorb the acoustic austerity of opener “High Desert” where dry strum and groove are shrouded in enchanting woodwind and chamber strings before the thunderous bass notes are flown in to increase the joviality of expectancy which will be fully resolved in the platter’s titular finale, while “The Gorge” finds Mads Tolling’s violin and Joseph Hebert’s cello pensively exploring electrified vistas Vickness passages fathom through merry-to-plaintive elegance as M.B. Gordy’s percussion and Ty Burhoe’s tabla propel the adventure further on.
So if “Alluvial Fans” smells simultaneously of symphony and folk, and “Stillness (For Will)” fleshes out Matt Renzi’s English horn with lush harmonies from other musicians, just like “Rupak (For Ty)” and “Cloud Shadows” comes embellished with sharp riffs to balance placidity and anxiety, the overall picture Mark and his fiends present is one of rare, natural beauty. Of waiting for the heavenly waters and enjoying petrichor afterwards. A delightful feeling.