Turns, the new full-length release from Seabuckthorn aka U.K. solo acoustic guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Andy Cartwright, is a very different affair from is predecessor, 2016’s I Could See The Smoke. Gone is the murky, dense and dirty production style of I Could See The Smoke, replaced by a much cleaner and brighter sound that lets the instrumentation shine through. Gone too is some of the haunted quality of I Could See The Smoke – with Turns, Seabuckthorn has moved away from the sort of eerie wails, moans and ghost-sounds existing on the edge of audibility which so distinguished its predecessor.
Instead, it sounds like Seabuckthorn is much more at peace with his world. Whereas I Could See The Smoke was unrelentingly tense and urgent, infused with foreboding, melancholic resignation and a kind-of simmering anger, the clarity of the instruments within Turns, in conjunction with Seabuckthorn’s airier and more relaxed approach to playing and composition, imparts a sense of restrained joy and calm acceptance.
It is the day to the night of I Could See The Smoke, if you will.
This isn’t to say, however, that Seabuckthorn has reinvented his own musical wheel – Turns is full of his signature stylistic devices and once again features his typically limited instrumentation, this time consisting of double bass, flamenco-style guitar playing, what could be actual drums, and a resonator guitar that somehow sounds like a hybrid autoharp-cello-pump organ. And just like with I Could See The Smoke, he creates soundscape-style pieces built on softly swelling drones, slowly building layers and subtly shifting repetition, underpinned by a sense of subdued tension.
The difference is that, in Turns, Seabuckthorn seems to have found a release for this tension. While his previous releases had a tendency to overwhelm us thanks to their unrelenting approach to layering, texture and repetition, Seabuckthorn allows the layers, textures and repetition within Turns to find a resolution of sorts, their pent-up energy blossoming into something serene. And this makes it a truly beautiful record.