We’ve always enjoyed the guitar playing of Ontario’s M. Mucci, but Don’t Be Afraid takes his sound to a higher plane with an expanded roster of piano, bass, pedal steel and drums. On this album, his band moves into the territory of Do Make Say Think, with long, languid pieces that ebb, flow and ultimately envelop.
Not many artists can shift from fingerpicking to post-rock, but it helps that Mucci has already established himself as a master of pacing. He’s clearly not afraid, nor does he wish his listeners to be. The four pieces included here produce a sense of comfort, a panacea to the tumult of the day. The concluding track, “Starkest Darkness”, brings the comfort to the fore, as it is based on a poem by Nathanaёl Larochette: To all my people … who’ve learnt to love all the scars in their lives. The tone is one of graceful acceptance. We may be described by our scars, but we need not be defined by them. The piano notes fall like the stars of the poem, elegant in their demise.
“Abbiamo la Forca (We Have the Gallows)” may sound bleak in concept, but not in execution. This showcase for Mucci’s solo work is rich in timbre, constantly changing its tonal stance, evidence that a solo guitar need not sound like a solo guitar. On first play, it takes a while to notice the performers who are not there, a compliment to Mucci’s play and his sequencing choices. The title track builds layers and levels simultaneously, as if to frighten away demons through sound.
But the spotlight belongs to “Basta Cornuto!”, whose exclamation point gives it all away. The track begins with five drumstick clicks and swiftly shifts into near-raga gear, with repeated themes balanced by morphing sub-melodies. The track builds and builds, until one begins to wonder how thick the timbres will get; then the volume slowly billows down, a parachute in a soft breeze. While the track stops short of frenzy, it deserves its exclamation point; additional props go to R. Cappelletto for the timely punctuations.
Mucci’s willingness to expand his boundaries has led to one of his finest works; by adding musicians, he’s only increased our respect for his own capabilities. (Richard Allen)
Release date: September 1