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Idyll Swords
(The Communion Label)

Are you a person who likes guitar music? I mean someone who likes the sounds of acoustic guitars as a main element of track after track? If so, seek out the Idyll Swords right now. With three different members that all play guitars (among other instruments), this release has some of the most nicely layered guitar work that I've heard in a long time. Of course, by itself that would become pretty damn boring after a short period of time (even though they mix things up with 6 strings, 12 strings), so the group also throws in a sitar, tambua, cumbus, banjo, an oud, percussion, and lots of other things to keep it all interesting.

In fact, at times while listening to this group, I was reminded of a quieter, acoustic version of Macha. There are definite middle-eastern influences that shine through on several tracks (the group even does a cover of a traditional Afghani song, one that is probably more poignant now) and they mix in field recordings, and even some tracks with vocals for an album that definitely highlights one instrument, but not so much that you're bored out of your skull or resort to sounding like Dave Matthews Band.

The album opens up with the track "Tantz" and some rather attacking acoustic guitar. The strings are loose and jangling and after awhile they simply fade out as a field recording of what sounds like a market drifts in. Eventually, different guitar parts fade in and out of the track (including one piece that sounds like the equivalent of an update of dueling banjos), and in four minutes it never gets boring. Following that up is "Lake Palace," the longest track on the disc (at almost 9 minutes), and wisely it moves through several different sections as well. The following two tracks take on a definite middle-eastern feel to them (and they should, as one is the aforementioned Afghani track), while "A Bridge To A Bridge" adds a much thicker sound and vocals and it ends up being one of the best tracks on the release.

Unfortunately, the percussion doesn't even enter the release until the track "Moab (Arches)" (which is well over halfway through the album) and very rarely after that. When it hits, it's a breath of fresh air, and although the layering of the different stringed instruments creates some very nice and rich effects, after hearing the one track it's hard to feel like there's not something missing elsewhere. There's no doubt that the members of the band are very talented, but on several tracks it just feels like things could have been fleshed out a little more had another element been added. If you're into guitars, you'll eat this release up, but it may leave you wanting to break out your Macha for some thick percussion.

Rating: 6.25