A common issue I often have with extended, solo guitar pieces, particularly those emerging after the most significant Takoma school work, is that due to its singular point of origin and fetishized physicality, its reduction to strings, frets and equipment, the methods for listening to the guitar in this context feel limited to pre-established modes; canonised figures perform as they are expected to and too easily I respond with the usual references and moods, as if the work can be understood as a series of technical variations without ever exceeding the terms of the ‘solo guitar record’. But on this reissue of his final, and long out of print, collection, Basho’s ecstatic, elegaic technique and emotional fluidity rupture this ease-of-consumption and surpasses the expectations and perceptions associated with his sound.
The tone on Twilight Peaks holds somewhat of a hybrid position between the various modes found in Basho’s work. Elements of a sound indebted to raga, as heard predominantly on Basho’s earlier works, particularly The Seal of the Blue Lotus, jostle with more orthodox American folk components, classical composition, emotive ballads and that incomparable delicate and faltering technique.
Dense flurries of interlocking phrases, unusual scales and idiosyncratic harmonics draw out alongside a melodic clarity and immediacy more reminiscent of Basho Sings! (the only singing included on the reissue is the lovely baroque ballad ‘Kingdom of Love’, which Basho did not consider part of the set, but remains a quaint deviation for the, admittedly minor, group of Basho acolytes, myself included, that appreciate the idiosyncrasy of that overpowering voice).
Phrases linger, repeat, multiply and expand outwards with an emotive resonance indicative of the records appropriation as new-age relaxation music; an obscure position held for over a decade, but one which obscures the joyous and idyllic, yet plaintive, atmosphere. These incredibly rich, dynamic pieces, full of movement and melancholy, from ‘Japan Idyll’s’ string bends and trills to the rolling tremolo and precise melodies of ‘Twilight Peaks’, deserve a position amid Basho’s most revered work.
Worth mentioning is the fantastic work done by Smeraldina-Rima for this reissue. The liner notes by Richard Osborn and Glenn Jones (who also mastered the tracks) situate the record conceptually, historically and personally and the distinctive artwork by Wouter Vanhaelemeesch completes a perfect package. The two live extras are a pleasant addition as well, particularly the extended ‘Nice Enough for Love’, ending the record with a languid and earnest charm as Basho seemingly attempts to shake loose the repeated, romantic motif that defines the piece.