Jen Powers and Matthew Rolin have done a lot of fantastic duo work together in the past couple years and honestly the combination of hammered dulcimer and 12-string guitar is such a winner that you’ll find me bowing down at whatever altar they’re putting up. In the hands of not just skilled players, but astral travelers, those two instruments run the cycle, sounding like bright, warm light all the way into subterranean sonic rivers. As a duo, they have a subconscious, psychic connection that allows them to find these tight crevices where sound and stars align and navigate them to the point where the music transcends. On Beacon, the dynamic shifts slightly with the addition of Jayson Greycz on percussion, but the result is a different kind of mesmerizing.
Something about the combined resonances of the dulcimer, 12-string guitar, and how Greycz finds his own spaces to squeeze into and expand on makes these recordings feel tangible and huge. “Uphill March” treads in darkened waters before diving underneath and exploding into a bioluminescent spectacle. Powers is the keystone, keeping the pieces connected as dark blue hues beam into neon. Greycz’ playing is subtle at times, but knows when to push a rhythm harder, always adding an earthy quality to the shine. Dulcimer tones dance an intricate ballet, pushing in opposite directions as Rolin’s guitar playfully chases, bending the whole track into a hypnotic anthem.
Cascading melodies on “Velvet” are the last sunset before the harvest; a cathartic send off for the ghosts that stay just out of reach. Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi’s saxophone adds a layer of organic texture as Greycz lays down a metallic path for Powers and Rolin to wander down. Uplifting in a very real, very freeing way, “Velvet” taps deep into a relaxed, radiant vein. It’s almost the antithesis to opener, “Cracked Steps,” where tension and fraught emotions run rampant. Throughout Beacon, Greycz, Powers, and Rolin dig deep to take you to so many different places. It’s an exhausting trip that leaves you satisfied and ready for the next journey, ready to keep mining. Beacon is a diamond.