Is banjo futurism a thing? Probably not, but if it was Nathan Bowles would be leading the charge. Over the course of three solo albums, the picker/percussionist (you may know him from work with Pelt, Jack Rose, Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn, among others) has made music that’s at once deeply rooted in traditional folk forms while at the same time forward thinking and progressive.
Bowles’ latest, Whole & Cloven, is his best effort yet, with timeless melodies (the gorgeous opener “Words Spoken Aloud”) blending seamlessly with hypnotic minimalist moves (the thrumming piano-based “Chiaroscuro,” which nods to the Terry Riley playbook). He makes these juxtapositions seem as natural as a rolling mountain stream, while still dazzling with his impeccable technique. His rhythmic instincts are essential here, and set him apart — check out the relentlessly propulsive drive of “Blank Range,” or the masterful ebbs and flows of the 11-minute “I Miss My Dog.” Wrapped up in lovely artwork by John Henry Toney and beautifully recorded by Jason Meagher, Whole & Cloven is wholly terrific. words / t wilcox