M. Ward The Transfiguration Of Vincent

M. Ward The Transfiguration Of Vincent
Matthew Ward is blessed - with rare talent, a perpetually inquisitive mind and good friends. Several years ago after a Giant Sand show, he passed along a tape of his songs to Howe Gelb, who eventually put out his first album. The End of Amnesia soon followed, garnering lush praise, and The Transfiguration of Vincent is his first record for Merge. The first thing that strikes you when you put on the record is his raspy voice - it's gritty but gentle, and utterly original. It enters the room as if conjured from some long-lost field recording. Ward is in fact preoccupied with recording, but with multi-tracking as a writing technique. Over the last decade he's spent as a four-tracker, he has amassed over a hundred tapes that he revisits prior to each album. But he's more preoccupied with how dreams and memories might be similar, than reflecting on his own considerable talents as guitarist and writer. He chooses to wrestle with the big questions, content to leave them unanswered, but not to leave them unconsidered. "This new record talks about love and death more than the last one. Those are two things I'm very curious about, and I want to learn about their relationship to each other. So I picked songs from those two angles to see what kind of an affect it would have on me." Ward's depictions of unfettered joy are frequently headed straight towards death, but the despair found there is also steeped in beauty. Many songs take quite literally the notion that your lover's departure might be lethal. "For some reason I like to take these funny idioms in the language and take them really seriously. Some of that is in the song 'Undertaker,' with the idea of the absence of love in your life being a kind of death." Where his prior recording was layered with ghostly voices and crackling electronics à la Sparklehorse, the current record is more spacious and deliberate. The often simple blues songs take on an otherworldly quality - multi-tracked voice and guitar and frequently unidentifiable samples hover just outside the listener's consciousness. "Hopefully it's all in the background. I prefer [to have] more questions when listening to a recording. It's nice when you don't know exactly where everything comes from." This applies as well to the songwriter. "I try to do that for myself - to surprise myself on the playback keeps it interesting for me." (Merge)