Utilizing a plethora of styles, C.W. Franz embraces a radiant spirit of discovery on the soothing C.W. Franz II. The sheer magnitude of approaches is balanced with the utmost care, ensuring that every element possesses a careful balance. With so many instruments and genres brought into the fray, it would be easy to oversaturate the sound. Yet the whole of the album maintains a breezy and atmospheric quality. Positively soaked in sunshine, the colorful and airy compositions possess so much life. C.W. Franz clearly has an ear for melody. These pieces patiently ebb and flow in such elegant ways.
Cross-genre blending happens so easily on this album and with much gleeful abandon. Despite its easygoing nature, pieces of field recordings, folk, ragas, classical, and ambient work mesh together in a virtual stream of consciousness. The reference points vary wildly from piece to piece ensuring a rather lovely, tender, warm approach. The guitar playing, exceptional throughout, taps into the expressive range of John Fahey’s most spirited performances. On the ambient side of things, the sheer walls of sound recall Klaus Schulze’s “Irrlicht” in their similar timbral and textural shifts. All of this comes together to create a vast narrative, a story without needing to say a single word. The journey is a comfortable one via the inclusion of so many different instruments, ensuring each element has space to truly shine.
There is poetry of sorts in the genteel introduction of “Eseᐧhčekan (Way of Doing Things)/ From Here to Rock Island,” which sets the tone for what follows. Birdsong courtesy of Barred Owl gives way to elegant piano on the gorgeous “Lek/9:25 to Bloomington.” The highly personal vision seems to reference the patient and painterly cadence of the Penguin Café Orchestra. A vast geography comes into view on the blissful “Farewell, Pontiac”. The careful sound design of “Mešahkwatwi (Clear Sky)” touches upon the ebb and flow of Twin Peaks’ most soothing impulses and surreal imagery. Delicate structures build on the passionate playing of “Dusk Near Clintonville, WI,” where sweeping vistas lead the way. The incredible shortwave radio transmissions of “The Land Remains/The Land Blossoms (土地開花)” elicit a feeling of pure joy. “Route of the Silver Eagle” features a reimagining of jazz, with sudden bursts of activity to periodically interrupt the procession. Another highlight comes from the sprawling, multi-part suite “Tepehkiᐧwi (It Is Night)/Rock River Suite” whose careful composition reminds me of Tim Buckley’s otherworldly works. The album concludes things with a reflective lullaby; the calm “Waᐧpanwi (First Light).”
With the powerful “C.W. Franz II,” C.W. Franz develops his own sonic vocabulary one that defies any and all categorization.