Inert and useless, a length of rope is nothing until it's taken into able hands. With basic application it can be thrown and looped: a finer understanding is required to make it into a lasso. Similarly, an overhand knot can easily be made by crossing two lengths so they meet in the centre but it takes yachting experience to hitch a perfect bowline. Using guitar strings in Doubles, Cian Nugent has made an album that showcases his ability and techniques in the same way a sailor might proudly decorate a cabin with a framed display of knottery.
Not composed in the habitual album format of several short songs, Doubles is an unusual item in the fact that it is comprised of just two pieces of music, each over twenty minutes long. Although a study in serious guitar expertise with influences that may seem obscure to the lay music fan, this is a warm and engaging listen for anyone who appreciates guitar played well.
Peaks & Troughs consists solely of guitar, building from deliberate, beckoning strums to a quickening stream of notes that shift through a range of pitches. After five minutes there's a brief spin that throws off the accumulated weight before falling back on course to long, deep swells. Then a lull, a swell, a spin, this remarkable piece of music punctuated with the overhead squawk of scraping strings as Nugent's fingers scull across the flurry of notes. The tiny, spinning maelstroms are the consistency that keeps the bearings in this vast roiling sea of sound, dropping away to a calm, quiet drone. Oddly enough, it rarely sounds bare over that extended period of time due to the fluid manoeuvres which fill the space.
Aptly titled, the literal interpretation of Sixes and Sevens as a reference to biblical numerology is to experience both Hell and Heaven simultaneously: the seemingly separate titles of these pieces do in fact complement each other. Moody and unpredictable as implied, the music avoids erratic polarity by keeping sudden switches in tempo and tone to a minimum, progressing gradually and fading slowly.
Less astute musicians might build up to a heady climax and then allow a steep drop, a move which can be pre-empted by the listener. Cian Nugent never lets it fall away but instead uses a diversionary arc that delivers required changes without the jarring consequences. ?
Merry and exuberant in the earlier stages, particularly around the four-minute mark when the trumpets bring a wonderfully uplifting breeze, Sixes and Sevens is the fully accomplished pairing to Peaks & Troughs' apparent sparseness. A slow, sombre air follows in the midsection, picking up again by thirteen minutes with a rush of joy as the complex, rapid fingerwork returns and the strings and woodwind soar alongside like a huge cinematic score.
David Lacey's percussion drops in with all the regular intervals of hatches amidships, simple, subtle and perfectly timed. Its final three minutes hear the coalescence of all instruments into one final swell: brass, strings and woodwind accompanying the guitar to the end of its journey like seagulls and submarines leading a modest little craft home to the harbour.