★★★ Nighttime Birds And Morning Stars
THRILL JOCKEY. CD/DL/LP
Ambitious fourth from North Carolina folk experimenter. Sarah Louise Henson’s previous albums have demonstrated her facility for wyrd Americana and 12-string extemporisation, with spring 2018’s Deeper Woods LP bringing her crystalline vocals more to the fore. Nighttime Birds And Morning Stars doubles back on that trajectory and heads left, its eight enveloping essays featuring live 12- and 6-string guitars manipulated and looped into capacious soundscapes, only occasionally topped off by vocal salutes to nature and the mysterious heavens. Opener Daybreak has inexorably blossoming layers of ambient guitar, the eventual vocal entry akin to the first shafts of sunlight suddenly illuminating the dawn horizon. Things turn more abstract on Ancient Intelligence, with its wildly skittering, processed note clusters and distant, wordless ululations, while the title track seems to be summoning the very universe with its eerie e-bow drones and shards of fingerpicked guitar, like Robbie Basho reimagined by Alvin Lucier.