Matt Gold ‘Imagined Sky’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

“Imagined Sky” is an engaging slice of post-rock / folk / blues / Americana from Chicago based guitarist and songwriter Matt Gold. It’s his first solo outing but it sounds more collaborative than that implies, with great contributions coming from bassists Matt Ulery and Brian Doherty, drummer Jeremy Cunningham and synth player Dan Pierson, along with some lovely cameos from vocalists Macie Stewart and Sara Serpa, and violinist Myra Hinrichs.

There’s an alluring kinetic energy to this recording, whether it be Gold’s electric guitar power-playing, his acoustic guitar and its whispered textures, the folk-tinged vocals blending perfectly with the abstracted Americana, or the bluesier elements that are a welcome delight. As Gold comments: “I’ve tried to stitch together the more improvisatory electric trio material with something more song-focused and concise, balancing these energies.”

‘Augusta Fairgrounds’ opens the album with the electric trio, a driving piece that reminds me of the great Brian Setzer with its rockabilly-tinged backbone. As with much of the album, the music evokes wide-open, turbulent landscapes, long-forgotten dreams drifting wistfully across the plains. The outstanding ‘Queen Anne’ is a far more folky affair featuring the stunning vocals of Macie Stewart… what a voice! I found myself hitting the repeat button on my player after being instantly hooked by this tune. “I think a lot about space in my writing,” says Gold, “whether it’s external, as in a physical space, or internal – the spaces of our imagination, our uncertainties, our own particular ways of seeing the world…this record leans into both interpretations.” Propelled by a trance-inducing drum pattern, ‘Crimes’ emerges with a sparse, desert landscape of guitar chords and synthesizer textures that build in energy and intensity, hinting at the sounds of a Morricone film score. The analogue sounding, tape manipulated solo acoustic guitar of ‘Between The Four Seas’ is followed by Gold’s vocal and acoustic guitar on the John Renbourn-esque ‘Truehearted’, which is embellished with some lovely strings. The trio piece ‘Dollarama,’ reminds me of a late 60’s Terje Rypdal, cool and bluesy, whilst ‘Always Starting Over,’ a wonderfully melodic piece, captures perfectly Gold’s style with lovely, slightly discordant acoustic guitar matched well by the rhythmic drums that give the tune an engrossing pulse. I love this and it’s definitely one of the most original tracks on the album. ‘Petrichor,’ written with and featuring Sara Serpa on vocals, finds Gold and Serpa in a duet as dreamlike synthesizer lines wash over the mix. ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’ leans into an earthy, familiar feeling, bursting with raucous, blues-tinged energy, rounding off the album in uplifting style.

“Imagined Sky” has a warm, feel-good atmosphere to it. It’s accessible, yet healthily unconstrained by genre and sure of its own identity, feeling less like a debut and more like a culmination of all the good things Matt Gold has taken on board along his journey to reach this point. With a refreshing vitality, I’d highly recommend it.

Mike Gates