Blake Mills: Look
As an unusually versatile “musician’s musician” who has toured and recorded with everyone from Lucinda Williams to Fiona Apple to Alabama Shakes, Blake Mills sometimes goes unrecognized as the true guitar hero that he is. Look is almost an aberration, and might not do much to change that perception, but the story behind it alone speaks volumes about his curiosity and inventiveness as an artist. Like Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell or Adrian Belew, Mills doesn’t feel limited by the sound a guitar makes naturally; in fact, when you’re exploring the parameters of a clutch of vintage Roland guitar synthesizers for the first time, as he does here, the only limit seems to be your imagination. That might feel like a road-weary cliché until you actually dive into the five cuts on Look (simply titled “One” through “Five”). From the elegiac, Vangelis-like textures of the opening piece, to the weirdly tribal, Eno-esque vibes of “Three,” a distinct sensation of traveling while not moving pokes through—a familiar trait of any ambient work that’s doing what it was meant to do, which is to encourage “active listening” to the point where you might forget about doing anything else. But here’s a key thing to remember: Mills possesses an uncanny ability to open up the melodic wonders of a simple chord progression. It’s really his bread and butter, and it drives the music on Look in ways so subtle and interesting that it casts this EP as the work of not just a guitar player, but an honest-to-modern-art composer.