Ayal Senior has been a Foxy Digitalis favorite for a long, long time. I still remember Bryon Hayes introducing me to his work back in 2006 or 2007 and I’ve tried to keep an ear to the ground for anything Ayal’s had cooking since. After countless releases in that time, though, Az Yashir stands out. This collection of guitar-focused exploits is dusty and familiar even when it maunders well past the point of no return.
Moving with the arc of the sun, Senior casts perpendicular shadows between the strings of “India.” Plucked chord progressions give way to tempered rhythms and gliding pedal steel shards from Kurt Newman. Notes spill over themselves, resonating through deserted corridors. Moving with careful purpose, Senior’s guitar increases in volume, trying to reach every last possible destination within earshot as dusk beckons. Spirits begin to crackle in the brewing darkness. The facade falls.
Jubilance spreads through the vibrant reverberations of “Whisperwood” as though each burning solo is carving out its own divine corner within the palatial excess. Newman returns with an inviting elegance adding overcast skies to soften cutting edges in Senior’s chord progressions. It’s lithe and unyielding. An open-world drift lines the walls of the perfectly-named “Harry Dean.” Imbued with the feeling of barreling down the open blacktop, Senior is simultaneously searching for something and celebrating the journey in the emotive guitar passages.
Harry Dean isn’t the only magician to get a tribute on Az Yashir. “Road (for Doc Dunn)” seethes with campfire guideposts. Senior rides the smoke wave as close to the stars as it’ll take him, pressed forward by Jay Anderson’s restrained percussion. Doc may not be on Az Yashir in person, but the collaborative spirit he and Senior have developed over the years is woven into the spirit of the record.
Az Yashir calls it a night with the 11-minute closer, “There’s Nothing I Like More Than Anything Else.” Besides having a great title, the track lives in the present and grabs hold of a single moment for steadiness. It’s a soft exclamation that further distills his presence into the bedrock of these songs. Blissed-out in the mindful shruti box drones, Ayal Senior mollifies the horizon to stay in the tranquil confines of the golden hour for a little while longer.