Richard Buckner's mind is often not a pleasant place to be inside. After establishing his reputation during the alt-country insurgence of the mid-'90s, his work has evolved in more introspective and challenging ways, to the point where his last effort, 2011's Our Blood, was nearly scrapped due to outside forces imposing themselves upon Buckner's life. With Surrounded, Buckner again chose to do everything himself, but received vital assistance from producer Tucker Martine, in terms of maintaining focus. The results are much more cohesive than Buckner's achieved in recent memory, with his ambient experimentation being effectively deployed throughout Surrounded's nine tracks. While a claustrophobic atmosphere dominates — an effect Buckner has always employed, to various degrees — a little light does come into the room on "Go" and "Cut," which recall the flowing grace of his best early work. While Buckner's songs can be awe-inspiring (just ask Bon Iver's Justin Vernon), Surrounded, like its most recent predecessors, requires closer attention in order to fully appreciate.
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