Chicago guitarist Eli Winter continues his musical metamorphosis on the gorgeous new album Unbecoming. Defying the advice of industry middlemen pushing artists towards instant pop gratification, it unfolds patiently through extended instrumental rambles. At age 23, Winter currently splits his time as a freelance writer, while developing his own six-string techniques drawing on the influences of contemporaries Steve Gunn, Ryley Walker, and the late Jack Rose. “Maroon” is Unbecoming’s joyful centrepiece, marking the first time he has led a band with Sam Wagster (Mute Duo) on pedal steel, Cameron Knowler on nylon strings, and Tyler Damon (Circuit Des Yeux) on drums. The latter’s chugging brushed snare rhythm recalls the forward motion of Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” while the song’s overall palette of understated pastoral longing is closer in spirit to another Chicago hero, Jim O’Rourke, in the late ‘90s travels of his releases like Bad Timing. Carrying on timeless traditions while also revealing new perspectives, Winter’s music is the soundtrack for a universal process of transformation. words/j locke
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