New York City songwriter/producer/guitarist Ian C. Bouras is a mainstay of the Big Apple’s indie music scene and does more with his six string work than a bevy of less daring axe slingers ever attempt. His production talents shape his latest fourteen song collection, Absence (live looping), into an intensely cinematic musical experience with his guitar used in a way that a painter might. There’s a lot of melodic strength on the album, but those melodies take shape through accumulation rather than in the manner of a typical pop song. The album is, naturally, instrumental in approach, but even those familiar with popular music will find that Bouras presents his musical ideas in such a way that we never miss the presence of a singer. I dare say that even casual music fans who typically avoid such releases might find much to enjoy about this album, though the mood pervading each of its songs is decidedly melancholy.
His approach is unique on the modern entire scene. There are other songwriters who have chosen to focus on crafting solely instrumental releases and most suffer from unintended elitism and self indulgence that limits their audience from the outset. Bouras, perhaps understanding that the vast majority of the music buying public, however hip or educated they may be, are much more familiar with vocal music, never neglects to make melody an important component in what he does. You can hear it come through quite strongly in songs like the first cut “While You Were Gone”, “The Cruelty of Dreams”, “Thoughts of You”, and the tumultuous second half of “Conversations with Strangers”. The final two tracks are back to back numbers and, perhaps, illustrate in tandem the album’s unique appeal more than any other single track or duo could. While the former song is surprisingly alive with a sense of hope sprinkled in with its obvious longing, the latter has a well defined downcast spirit and a glowering intensity that reaches a near claustrophobic pitch.
The album’s mood, as a whole, isn’t particularly jaunty. A ghostly, remorseful air surrounds much of the release and Bouras modulates the colors within a relatively narrow range of expression. It’s fortunately, for listeners, a rather dramatic range. The peaks with his music come as he resolves individual melodic lines and musical ideas without any overstatement. He utterly avoids even a hint of self-indulgence over the course of Absence’s fourteen cuts. Many of the numbers are even a little threatening – “Rejuvenation” sounds fraught with imminent peril while “Fear of Sleep” invokes all of the expectant dread of someone weary of nightmares or what else they might encounter in their dreams. “Until We Meet Again” seems valedictory based on title alone, but it leaves the ending a little less definitive and more open ended than people may like. Absence (live looping) is an important release, however, despite any minor quibbles. There’s an abundant imagination bringing these tunes together and it doesn’t take any short cuts with its audience.