Cian Nugent's 2011 album for VHF has a very vinyl-era feeling to it, consisting of two 20- to 25- minute compositions that would have fit perfectly on a Vanguard or Takoma release from 1969 or so. (If either piece had the word "fantasia" in the title, that would seal it.) But that sense of paired work -- a theme spelled out in both the album and song titles -- allows for a kind of direct contrast and complement in turn, and Nugent's exploration in the world of acoustic guitar composition is elegant, engaging stuff. "Peaks & Troughs" begins with slow, extremely deliberate notes before rapidly increasing its pace, never bursting into a sudden explosion of notes or chaos -- this isn't Bill Orcutt, say -- but carefully winding up energy almost like a coiling (if friendly) snake. This balance, in keeping with the song title, recurs throughout the piece; an alternation that carefully follows its own logic each step of the way. The sense of deliberation that holds sway throughout is remarkable, though perhaps the more accurate word is precision, with every exploratory filigree and shift from multiple to solo notes sounding tightly honed without being simply mechanistic, leading into a concluding, sustained feedback zone that suddenly transforms the whole feeling of what has gone beforehand. "Sixes & Sevens," a few minutes longer and no less involving, again showcases Nugent's sense of precision but feels warmer and, in its own way, more expansive, with the soft ringing of a chime slowly alternating with guitar at the beginning, followed by increasingly louder percussion and wind instruments as Nugent's main composition unspools, steadily calming down and then ramping up again. The various moves from unaccompanied to group effort not only help in making the contrast between the two songs more clear, they introduce a feeling of direct joy: there's something uplifting on the song that stands in contrast to "Peaks & Troughs," though there are similar moments of quiet and near starkness as the song reaches mid-length. ~ Ned Raggett
Pitchfork (Website) - "'Peaks & Troughs' is an ambitious solo workout for guitar and, eventually, synthesizer."
Uncut (magazine) (p.67) - "Complex and allusive, Cian Nugent's second album is a deep pass through some of the most visionary music of the 20th Century..."