Album Review: Shai Agmon – The Cobweb – Sophisticated instrumental acoustic guitar album

This is an exceptional album that uses acoustic instrumental guitar to sooth the soul. Shai Agmon reached out to us and it was a stunning realization of his talent. The combination of guitar music and backing strings makes for a gorgeous, relaxing experience.

Because I am not necessarily technically gifted, I can’t speak to everything Agmon is doing with the guitar on this album, but there’s a lot to hear. The first track “Meeting of the Spirits” has shades of Flamenco style on it, with a lot of finger-picked runs over layers of soft, soothing background strings. The main melody line is spirited and moving, especially near the halfway point of the track, keeping the listener awake even while chill.

Now the second track “Moondance” is an entirely different piece. Evoking conflicted emotions through minor chords and dramatic developments, the track is both unsettling and soothing at once. It reminds me of a relationship and – well – a dance. It’s that back and forth, give and take, control and lack of it… there’s a unique time signature that seems to bounce between cut time and standard. Although a dance feeling to it, the shifting times would make it nearly impossible to actually dance to. The conflict and resolve repeatedly layered make it maybe the most complicated track on a very complex album.

“Lullaby and a Prayer” is the track with the most active strings in it. It feels the most like a true orchestral piece. That said, it is dramatic and moving in unpredictable ways. There’s a sense that Agmon could write film scores. His sense of the magisterial seems evident in the depth of each growing, glowing chord. I have to say this would take a pretty sophisticated baby to appreciate this lullaby and prayer to sooth them to sleep, but it does certainly have a lulling and comforting effect.

The title track “The Cobweb” is equally engaging as the rest of the album. Highlighting more of the solo guitar than the others, the melody line starts strong here, but gets distrupted. While it’s probably more “contemporary classical” than any subgenre of folk, it definitely fits with the music we often feature here. It’s raw, yet polished. It’s authentic and well composed. “The Cobweb” also features the album’s only use of electric guitar. Frolicking, bouncing from melody to accents, the electric guitar gives a penetrating, even cutting feeling to the track. It feels entangling, as I surmise the title alludes to. It’s far from melodic and some may find it difficult, but it is a thing of beauty.

This album is definitely not standard fare for EarToTheGround, but it’s intriguing and captivating. It’s sophisticated and challenging at times. It also can be sleepy and comfortable like a soft pillow. The wise and discerning music fan will give Shai Agmon’s virtuoso skills and expert songwriting the opportunity it deserves to be heard. Fans of contemporary classical and experimental acoustic music will find much to enjoy on this (all-too) short EP.

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