From an ocean of black, sometimes there is a slim chance you might emerge clean and translucent, with another life chapter under your belt and a renewed story to tell. J.H. Guraj, our favourite wandering bird, is back with his first proper opus on Maple Death: Introspection / Migration.
Sometimes records lead off into an unknown path that never considers release schedules or the outside world, inhabiting the abysses of the artists’ mind and dropping a hefty anchor in the murky waters. Dominique Vaccaro, stage name Guraj in homage to an old sage picker from the Albanian rocky landscape, started Introspection / Migration on a two day recording spree in 2014 using a resophonic guitar, a distinct unifying songbook theme and his usual freestyle wizardry … then the dust settled. In between releasing Underrated Glances At The Edge Of Town (Maple Death, 2016) ,Steadfast On Our Sand (Boring Machines, 2018), touring with Be My Delay and his experiments as Vaccaro Overlapped Memories (Tsss Tapes, 2019) and Close Distances (Dinzu Artefacts, 2018), his determination to finish this album never wandered.
Informed by his work over the last ten years as a visual artist and electro-acoustic musician, he kept chipping away, adding layers, sounds, field recordings, percussion while maintaining the pureness,soul and integrity of the original guitar recording; a five year long inner journey, a long drawn-out process of migration and settlement. The additions not only augment reality, they hyper-define it, a beautiful crisp photograph where an empty woven chair is ready to welcome you in through the rollicking Middle-Eastern theme ‘Furnace’; ‘Closer’ weaves and intersects with that loose tightness found in greats like Mick Turner and Loren Connors, while ‘Yet Still’ stumbles elegantly creating a suspension in time before crashing into a circular hail storm. ‘Migration’ is the perfect closing elegy, uplifted by men’s chants recorded in Marrakesh, a Western lament of rare beauty and timeless nature that feels present, comforting and fading at the same time.
The resophonic guitar used in the recordings now rests in Firmo, the small Arbëreshë town, buried deep amongst the hills of Italy’s most Southern region Calabria where the artists’ father resides. There is no burden of history in Guraj’s music, there is movement, resolution and exodus, a reassembling of the soul through instinctive and unique guitar-delia.
Strange stumblings of time, unexpected arrangements of tones, a voice and depth of emotion which in the history of guitar playing is exceedingly rare. This is the Post-Modern guitar. - Bradford Bailey, The Hum