Dan Melchior: Odes

 [Cudighi; Dec. 18] | ★★★★

The seventh track on Dan Melchior’s new album consistently makes me tear up. Like all the instrumentals on Odes, “Tybee” is relatively simple. Spare, echoing picks on electric guitar amble patiently at the start, before lead lines surge, raw and bright, sprinting but never quite catching up. The song evokes a feeling of trying to get back something that you’ve lost.

My reaction to “Tybee” is, admittedly, wrapped up in the story that surrounds it. Melchior, the cult-favorite garage-rock adventurer who currently lives in Carrboro, recorded these songs shortly after moving from Durham to Akron, Ohio, in 2016, following the 2014 death of his wife, the artist Letha Rodman Melchior, following a protracted battle with cancer.

“The impact of losing Letha didn’t fully hit me until I was away from North Carolina,” Melchoir’s Bandcamp album statement reads. “I had to find ways of channeling my feelings so that I wouldn’t become completely overwhelmed.”’

The resulting nine songs, played into “a partially working 4 track” and a “karaoke machine that had very good reverb,” navigate the expanse between grief and acceptance, demonstrating that few—if any—guitarists have better mastered the expressive potential of lo-fi recording. On album opener, “Louisiana Honeymoon,” earthy acoustic guitar undulates as the reverb shifts and effect-drenched notes prickle, charting a melody that’s alien by comparison. Louder, more intensely distorted guitar slinks through “Jaguar Girl.”

“Night Song” and “Happy Good Night” let electric guitars ripple and dissipate through the analog haze, like memories fraying and fragmenting over time. “Coney Island” evokes the titular setting, with its mix of gritty history and youthful exuberance, setting dayglow lead lines over strums that crackle and crunch.

Released four years after it was recorded and dedicated to Letha, Odes is unvarnished and earnest, but also meticulously composed, offering powerful emotion and immersive texture. It is a rare and intimate gift.

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