McCombs is one of the most highly regarded bassists / guitarists working today, known for his pioneering band Tortoise, his bass playing in Chicago’s Eleventh Dream Day, and his innovative instrumental group Brokeback. He has released albums with guitarist David Daniell and collaborated with the likes of Tom Zé to Yo La Tengo, Stereolab to Daniel Lanois. In addition to being the touring bassist for The Sea and Cake, McCombs has somehow found time to form a new trio Black Duck with guitarist Bill MacKay, and percussionist Charles Rumback.
Douglas McCombs’ ‘VMAK’ is a window into one of the most distinguished and distinct voices in guitar music for the last three decades, effortlessly stretching the boundaries of the guitar while staying firmly grounded by blissful, uncanny melody.
McCombs’ debut solo album is a mix of improvisation, textural explorations and recurring melodic themes. The album title was lifted by the well-travelled McCombs from one of the visas packed into his current passport, the stamp a reminder of how far his music has taken him - literally all over the world. Not since McCombs’ solo outlet Brokeback blossomed into a full-fledged rock unit has his singular approach to solo guitar playing been exhibited in such striking detail. Taking after Brokeback’s classic ‘Morse Code in the Modern Age: Across the Americas’, ‘Two To Coolness’ is a piece that McCombs refined through a series of improvised performances and features Calexico drummer John Convertino, as well as singer / guitarist / synth player Sam Prekop (also of The Sea and Cake). ‘Green Crown’s Step’ was largely improvised working through melodies and patterns. The stately ‘To Whose Falls Shallows’ reshapes three key themes that Tortoise and Brokeback fans will find to be signature McCombs, buoyed by fellow Brokeback member James Elkington (Tweedy), who also engineered and mixed the album.
On the album, McCombs plays with spare instrumentation and primarily plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as the Bass VI, drawing out textures that stretch the scope of his instruments. McCombs’ work is pastoral and expansive, his playing is refined and nuanced, and his melodies often bely his admiration for Ennio Morricone as his guitar imbues endlessly sprawling fields of the Midwest with the same sense of magic. It is a true pleasure to hear him perform in such an intimate way. This is an absolute essential for followers of McCombs and newcomers alike, as the album lays bare his influence on each of his groups as well as firmly stakes McCombs as a force all his own.
Two To Coolness
Green Crown’s Step
To Whose Falls Shallows