Guitarist John Stowell does not hesitate when it comes to taking on unconventional projects. 2021 saw him teaming with vocalist Dan Dean on Rain Painting (Origin Records)—an album of featuring an overdubbed layering of voices (Dean's) making for lush and enriching choir-like harmonics, accompanied by Stowell's various guitars.
The Portland-based guitarist's follow-up finds him teaming with trombonist Dave Glenn, a longtime collaborator, and bringing in a classical string quartet to enhance the atmosphere. The results are a unique (a word often overused, but not here) sound.
The album opens with a stately, all-strings, one-minute beginning from the Hawcaptek String Quartet entitled "Social Butterfly Intro," which leads into the guitar/trombone pairing on "Social Butterfly," written by Stowell. The crispness of Stowell's guitar seems to punctuate the round smoothness of Glenn's horn, in the crafting of a time-stands-still, chamber music recital of sorts.
Sequencing is important in any presentation of multiple compositions—in a live show setting or on an album—and things are laid down beautifully here, featuring an alternating of the string quartet interludes, masterfully arranged by Glenn, with the guitar/trombone pieces, all of the resulting sounds seemingly highly influenced by classical music.
The overall elegance and understated majesty of the string quartet's flexible precision going back and forth with Stowell's and Glenn's sometimes jazzy ("Lonely Blue Angle"), sometimes playful ("Mottball") playing makes for an entrancing listening experience, closing with the Glenn-penned "Foundation's Edge Intro" and "Foundation's Edge," which may or may not be a nod to the classic 1982 Isaac Asimov novel of the same name.