Joseph Allred is absurdly talented. Their solo guitar music may be the main ticket – and understandably so as they’ve put out a string of incredible, innovative albums exploring the reaches of that style – but Allred’s got a lot more to offer under the hood. Enter Lute Music. When I think of experimental lute excursions, I go back to the mid 2000s and Josef Van Wissem, but Allred’s got a different take. Their playing, no matter the instrument, is distinct. I’d recognize it anywhere.
On the five pieces that make up Lute Music, Allred opens the windows and let’s the light stream in. This music is equal parts uplifting and searching; sounds pulled from the air to make you feel alive. “Helios” sings with joy, filtering through a prism to paint the walls in a vivid rainbow of sound. I get lost through these hills and valleys as they pick up pace, building anticipation for the next peak only to bring your heartbeat back to the earth as the reins are pulled taut.
It’s not all bright and shiny, though, as we sit by candlelight, contemplating the next destination on “Unlight.” Tension comes to a boil, Allred building steam and pummeling the strings before a sudden realization that there’s no reason to fret; we’ll find the next steps together. It’s a lovely conclusion to a heavy song and sets you up for the magnificent closer, “Achlys.” Points of viscous darkness drip through its 11 minutes, at times hypnotically looping itself through spectral scales, lulling you into an uneasy calm. The path ahead is still laden with snakes, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better traveling companion than Joseph Allred. Lute Music is another exciting entry into an ever-growing discography of essential tunes.