Working from his home studio in the small town of Alstead, New Hampshire, Denny Kemps is letting his music breathe. Following the lush, dense layers of 2021’s Deep Time, Kemps’ new record Tilly takes a more restrained approach, each arrangement an exercise in subtraction, space and texture. From purely acoustic guitar-driven compositions to dense electronic soundscapes, Kemps conveys common moods and musical themes through a shifting array of sounds. With a heavy focus on lead instrumentation, each song builds around an interplay between strong basslines and multiple guitar parts, complex harmonies cascading into each other like the rushing flow of the nearby Cold River.
The feeling and structure of these tracks channel kosmische luminaries like Popul Vuh and Cluster and ambient icon Brian Eno, forming an ethereal backbone for visionary guitar work reminiscent of Fahey, Basho, Rypdal and Fripp. Like many of these artists, Kemps combines highly composed elements with improvisation, often spending months refining every nuance of a guitar part or experimenting with synthesizer sounds, a process of deliberate experimentation that produces dozens of pieces that no one ever hears. The result is a tightly controlled but expansive album of boundary-pushing, impeccably crafted songs.
Written and recorded around the death of Kemps’ mother, Tilly is an undeniably melancholic and introspective effort, an instrumental work of astonishing emotional depth and complexity from a singular voice in American experimental music.
NOTE: Baltimore folks may know Denny Kemps better as Danny Kamps, musician about town circa 2008-2013 and member of Omoo Omoo, Gutterhooks, and Red Supergiant. While he hasn’t lived here for a while, he’s still important to a lot of us.
Baltimore Sound Document features new music releases from Baltimore artists. To have your music considered, email [email protected].