Tyler Higgins ‘Blue Moods’ (Clean Feed) 2/5

Minimalist brush strokes from Zen Master Awakawa Yasuichi. The art of the Japanese haiku. Johnny Depp’s performance in “Dead Man”. Flying over Mount Everest. The simple beauty of watching a waterfall flow. Brad Mehldau in reflective mood. Bill Frisell’s thoughtful guitar ruminations. Nat Birchall’s spiritual jazz. Ram Dass’s “Be Here Now”. Any Jim Jarmusch movie. Tibetan singing bowls. The sound of one hand clapping. All of the above are excellent examples of the beauty and poignancy of ‘less is more’. Unfortunately this album is not one of them.

Known primarily as a guitarist, Tyler Higgins is a multi-instrumentalist and utilises many of his skills on “Blue Mood”. There’s a slow ‘n’ easy late night feel to the proceedings, with most of the recording led by the composer’s gentle, repetitive guitar licks. The Atlanta native’s approach is an intuitive synthesis of traditional folk, blues, and jazz material through the filter of experimental techniques. And some it works well. I like the subtleties and the little melodies that hover delicately above the main themes. His use of space is graceful, and there’s a nice warm sound to the recording. But that’s as far as it goes for me. The tunes seem to lack any real purpose, whether minimalistic and esoteric in intent or otherwise. The album is definitely not without merit though. There’s a nice choice of instrumentation on many of the tunes, and the whole album makes a nice backdrop for a one-in-the-morning last lingering whisky before bedtime.

Words and sound bites such as ‘atmospheric’, ‘cinematic’, ‘minimalist soundscape’, and ‘ethereal storytelling’ are often used to describe the nature of the music being performed. But sometimes one should simply admit to there being a simple lack of depth and meaning. To the listener anyway, as I don’t doubt the sincerity and meaning with which a musician writes and performs, it’s just that sometimes it just doesn’t strike a relevant chord with the listener. Occasionally because said listener is in the wrong mood, but more often than not because quite simply the music just isn’t that good.

Mike Gates