Wendy Eisenberg is one of those blink-and-you-miss-them artists. Each of their albums forges its way to new territory, subverting any and all expectations of both music and musician. In “Evening Song” Eisenberg muses “I can hardly bother with what I am known for,” which ends up being a perfect summary for Bent Ring. Though known primarily as a fearless guitarist and improviser, Eisenberg’s third album as a songwriter further distills the cerebral lyricism of last year’s Auto and Dehiscence into something rawer and even closer to the bone.
Bent Ring is a hermetic record, humble and searching, almost uncomfortable in its closeness on first listen—like watching somebody pray. The songs are performed entirely on banjo and augmented with little besides Eisenberg’s plaintive, conversational vocals and occasional percussion. Against minimally plucked arrangements, Eisenberg unravels their own insecurities to the point of wonder, confronting the very nature of their art, laying bare questions of love and devotion, practice and faith, temporality and eternity. But it’s the unflinching vulnerability Eisenberg allows themself both lyrically and musically on that packs the biggest wallop. Bookended by acapella verses of “Abide With Me,” Eisenberg turns the hymn into an invitational, a sort of votive light illuminating the “transcendental lengthening of time” that Bent Ring ultimately becomes. | j annis