NON-SEQUITURS REVIEWS

All Music Guide, September 23 2003
Brainwashed, October 20 2003
Montreal Mirror, October 23 2003
Fakejazz, October 24 2003
Vinyl Junkie, November 7 2003
Wayside Music, October 19 2003
Splendid E-Zine, November 27 2003
Eye Magazine, December 4 2003
Aural Innovations, December 7 2003
Now Magazine, December 18 2003
FAC193, December 21 2003
Earshot, January 16 2004
Indieville, February 8 2004
Skyscraper, June 1 2004
Foxy Digitalis, June 8 2004
We Love Musique, June 10 2004



All Music Guide, September 23 2003

A Montreal based performer with connections to the Constellation record collective, Harris Newman isn't trying to sound like the most well known avatar from that city, Godspeed you Black Emperor. If anything Non-Sequiturs is an enjoyable polar opposite focusing in on Newman's abilities on acoustic guitar, backed with percussion on various songs from fellow Montreal performer Bruce Cawdron. Much like Newman's labelmate on Strange Attractors, German performer Steffan Basho-Junghans, Newman is inspired by any number of intriguing forebears in American avant-folk of the twentieth century. Though John Fahey is an obvious and acknowledged reference point (and perhaps ultimately inescapable given his impact on instrumental folk music), Newman's debut release calls to mind other performers as well, as enjoyable a reinterpretation and revival as any. On its own merits, Non-Sequiturs runs a gamut from soothing bluesy contemplation to quick, exquisite fingerpicking, finding a rich glaze of notes in songs like “Bitten" and “Throwing the Goats." The stop-start approach of “Trick Question," while it may not seem initially striking, captures the quiet moments so well as the notes fade into a quiet hum. Cawdron proves to be a sharp collaborator, often adding muffled or murky beats and stomps that add a distant atmosphere without necessarily trapping the recording in a prison of tremelous period recreation. If anything the sense of depth added on songs like “The Bullheaded Stranger" does in fact suggest the sweep of Newman's city contemporaries, but not at the expense of his own vision. The slow lapsteel twang and bowed cymbal combination of “God is in the Details" is a beauty, like Thomas Koner caught somewhere on the open range, while the nearly quarter-hour long “Forest For the Trees" is an extended chance for the two to play off each other in a sometimes nervous and edgy interweaving of low rumbles and quick picking. 4/5 — Ned Raggett



Brainwashed, October 20 2003

The real tragedy of the obligatory Fahey reference accompanying every sort of instrumental guitar music criticism these days is that in a case like this, when a namedrop is relevant, even downright essential, one feels like chump or a short-cutter for following through with it. With this debut disc, Harris Newman joins label-mate Steffen Basho-Junghans as the second new guitar graduate to successfully mine the Takoma catalog and produce something that is as fresh as it is backward-looking. The first third of Non-sequiturs had me thinking I had slipped The Best of John Fahey into the changer by mistake. Newman attacks Fahey's windswept blues and teetering, fingerpicked flourishes with a tenacity and a passion that keeps the songs from falling into dull repetition. The melancholia-meets-agitation vibe present in much of Fahey's music is at work in Newman's melodic sense and his play of tension and release; songs like "Sometimes a Bad Attitude is All it Takes" and "The Bullheaded Stranger" match Fahey's early works both in their ambitious structure and their quasi-absurd titles. Non-sequiturs would not be such a pleasing listen, though, if Newman had not lent them his unique touch. The guitarist's activity in the Montreal avant scene has no doubt inspired some of the disc's more surprising moments, most notably those featuring percussion from Godspeed member Bruce Cawdron. Cawdron's playing proves versatile, blending with the shuffling blues early on the disc and providing more abstract accompaniment via pandeiro, bodhran, and exquisitely played bowed cymbals as Newman's playing gets more spacious. The guitar bottoms out on "God is in the Details," gathering a skeletal, glacier-paced blues from groaning lap-steel plucking atop ghostly cymbal drones. The percussion is considerably detached in the mix for the length of Non-sequiturs giving a surreal quality to certain sections, primarily those in which Newman introduces improvisation or a kind of raga-style abandon into his playing. This effect is most impressive on the disc's 15-minute climax, "Forest for the Trees." The track features Newman drifting uncomfortably over three somber chords as the drums bump and shake, back and forth against his nervous timing; as his playing decays, the percussion ascends in a clatter of protest. The image conjured is one of an anxious guitar player, playing to the creaking sounds in his room at night. One quality often lacking among the followers of Fahey (of which Newman is one of the most loyal) is the ability to transcend technical mastery and create truly soulful, evocative music. Non-sequiturs confirms Harris Newman an exception to this majority. — Andrew Culler



Montreal Mirror, October 23 2003

If you've ever wondered what Kelley Joe Phelps would sound like if he were brought up on Sonic Youth rather than Mississippi John Hurt, then you have to check this out. Local musician Newman impresses here with a great detail in his compositions and a dynamic finger-picking guitar style that has as much to do with Chet Atkins as it does seminal indie band Slint. Newman is able to quote traditional forms while changing speeds with open-tuned arpeggios, but always lets the melody shine through his cluster of chords. He keeps his trap shut and lets his guitar do most of the talking, with occasional accompaniment by Bruce Cawdron on assorted instruments. 9/10 — Johnson Cummins



Fakejazz, October 24 2003

When any guitarist reaches for their acoustic, the shadows of John Fahey and Leo Kottke loom. Not so much as a result of the new breed's lack of imagination and ability (far from it), but because of the enormous breadth of those two men's exhausting catalog. Among the small handful of worthy heirs to the throne (namely Jack Rose, but also Glenn Jones and Steffan Basho-Junghans), Harris Newman's take on the guitar shows he's up to the challenge. Being a member of Canada's large and well-known Constellation Records family, Newman enlists Godspeed you Black Emperor member Bruce Cowdron for various (largely percussive) accents. "God is in the Details" eyes the fringe with bowed cymbal, drones, rumbles and a slow guitar slide. While "Feral Blues" builds to an energetic bounce, recalling the old-timey-est Americana. The tumbling guitar lines of "Forest for the Trees" (which is a 15-minute epic) bring to mind label-mate Basho-Junghans, but with the added texture of bubbling percussion. Dashes of blues, jazz, folk and a few experimental twists give Newman's guitar playing a fresh and evolving sound. 10/12 — Sean Hammond



Vinyl Junkie, November 7 2003

Along with Keith Christmas' Acoustica and Steffen Basho-Junghans' Rivers and Bridges (also from SAAH), this is the years finest acoustic album. While Fahey and Leo Kottke are always within earshot, Newman imbues these 11 tracks with his own signature. While technically brilliant, his fingerpicking style never overwhelms the warmth and nostalgia evoked throughout, particularly on tracks like "Bitten," one of the finest tracks Nick Drake never wrote! I was also impressed by the drum, bodhram, pandeiro, and lapsteel accompaniment from Bruce Cawdron, which adds a welcome variety to the collection, ensuring we won't drift off or become complacent while listening to a set of acoustic guitar instrumentals. While New Agers with a hefty Windham Hill back catalogue of William Ackerman and Michael Hedges albums will no doubtedly find something to their liking with Newman's often meditational explorations, adventurous listeners willing to dig beyond the surface will be impressed by the occasional phrasings reminiscent of American virtuoso stringpickers, Jerry Garcia, Eric Weissberg (several of the lapsteel tracks have a distinct bluegrass vibe), and Paul Simon (the rollicking opener "Around About Thirty-Six" has an elegantly baroque, haunting air a la "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" about it). The only drawbacks are the annoying, hesitating silences (perhaps intentional?) that begin several tracks (e.g., "Feral Blues," "God Is In The Details," "I Fought The Lottery," "Forest For The Trees"), the often somber, downbeat mood that may turn off the more excitable listeners, and, particularly, the meandering, train-whistle drone of "God Is In The Details," which borrows too heavily from fellow Montreal performers, Godspeed You Black Emperor! Listeners may also find their patience thoroughly tested by the 15-minute "Forest For The Trees," which is about five times longer than it needs to be, although it does develop a droning, minimalist, wyrdfolk charm for those who stick it out. But don't give up just yet, as you certainly won't want to miss the envigorating finale, an exciting lapsteel duet with the curious title of "Throwing The Goat." [A resequence to stick "Forest..." at the end would have helped.] Ultimately, a stunningly brilliant release and an essential listening experience. — Jeff Penczak



Wayside Music, October 19 2003

This is an album of finger-style Americana guitar music, thoroughly embedded with the Takoma Records 1960's vibe. The pieces are a mixture of solo guitar and guitar with percussion and drums by Bruce Cawdron (drummer of Godspeed! of all things). Harris is also an audio engineer, and perhaps THAT is why this really sounds like a long lost Takoma release, coming out for the first time 35 years later. It's funny hearing all these young sprats picking up on all this long, LONG dormant & long ignored music, after anything hippie related was killed by the punk explosion, and now, 25 years after that breathing some life into it with their obvious sheer love of it (well, usually - sometimes they don't get the real meaning behind the original and ruin it - but they are at least trying!). But the sheer love of that sound is really obvious to me on this album and I just enjoyed the hell out of this record. Conditionally recommended.



Splendid E-Zine, November 27 2003

I usually have a short attention span when it comes to instrumental music that sounds like it needs vocals; any song -- rock, folk, whatever -- that attempts to fill in a vocal line with other instruments gives me a headache. I've also been known to flee in terror from bluegrass, country or anything else that involves "pickin'". So why, if instrumentalist Harris Newman uses guitar and oodles of funky strums as the basis for compositions, am I still listening to Non-Sequiturs? Don't get me wrong: this isn't retarded backwoods Appalachian hyperactivity, a Deliverance soundtrack knockoff or a Dave Matthews B-side. If anything, it's the work of a Montréal native (yes, he's associated with the Godspeed camp) who grew up on a steady diet of Syd Barrett or goth or shoegazer stuff and successfully channelled that energy into his acoustic-guitar-and-minimal-orchestration compositions, which somehow sound complete despite their lack of assertive melodies. Newman's harmonies are dark, giving a different dimension to his blues-meets-Flamenco performing style. When he adds drums or lap steel ("The Bullheaded Stranger", "The Pyramids"), you could mistake his work for leftover tracks from Tom Waits's Bone Machine, as he favors a first-take living-room recording aesthetic. "God is in the Details" justifies the disc on its own: bowed cymbals, loping, tripped-out slide guitars and mysterious textures make this exotic flavor a nice complement to Newman's already unique approach. Anti-folk? Country and Eastern? It's tough to peg the sound, but I think that's Newman's point. His compositions defy our expectations of what instrumental guitar music is supposed to do. You should be happy about that, you hillbilly. — Dave Madden



Eye Magazine, December 4 2003

Culling the spirit of John Fahey is no simple seance; reaching the intimate emotional depths Fahey channelled through his acoustic six-string requires nothing less than a veritable resurrection. A telling record of old-world wisdom, Non-Sequiturs supplants modern trickery for timeless intricacy. Montreal's Harris Newman (who plays bass for Sackville and has mastered albums by Fly Pan Am, Sam Shalabi and Polmo Polpo) plucks at his steel strings as though he's weaving a tapestry: with a finely honed attention to detail. The slightest nuance and Newman has you careening across a sparse new plain; occasional percussion is suitably provided by godspeed you! black emperor's Bruce Cawdron. These transcendental depictions of spiritual evocation ring true. 4.5/5 — Kevin Hainey



Aural Innovations, December 7 2003

Since the press pack acknowledges it and all of the reviews of this CD already say it, I might as well go ahead a be a follower - the influence of John Fahey looms large on this release. If some had popped on the opener “Around About Thirty Six” and told me that it was in fact a Fahey song I probably would have believed it, and there are several other songs that are just THAT close. There are several like minded folks currently on the scene that I hear shades of Fahey in, including Steffan Basho Jughans, Jack Rose, and even Ben Chasny, but here it goes beyond the choice of tunings and notes and such, even the laid-back style of Fahey’s playing is approximated. Is this going over the line that separates “influenced” from “copyist”? Maybe so, maybe not, but on the other hand I have to say that it sounds really good, and it’s really only true of several of the songs on this, cause the rest move off in different directions as well, such as the nice relaxed bit of slide guitar of “God Is In the Details”. The addition of drums on several tracks kicks things into higher gear, upping the intensity level, especially on the lengthy “Forest For the Trees” where Newman creates a beautiful dark atmosphere through rapidly picked rising and falling volumes, ranging from barely a hushed whisper to outright attack. This is probably my personal favorite, but everything on this CD is pretty swank, and it leaves me wanting to hear more. What more can you ask for really? — Scott Heller



Now Magazine, December 18 2003

Harris Newman makes instrumental music centred on his acoustic guitar finger-picking. He takes aspects of North American folk music (bluegrass, country, blues) and twists it with odd harmonies and a dark, moody atmosphere. This is one of those albums that's experimental in a very subtle way – if you're not listening closely it almost sounds like "normal" folk music, but closer attention reveals a truly adventurous mind. Newman is closely associated with the Constellation Records scene in Montreal, and percussionist Bruce Cawdron is a member of Godspeed You Black Emperor! If you're familiar with them, you'll have some idea of the attitude Newman takes on this project. John Fahey would be another obvious reference point, but, thankfully, he's not really ripping off the late guitarist as much as respectfully referencing him. 4/5 - Benjamin Boles



FAC193, December 21 2003

The acoustic guitar is one of the most accessible and frequently heard musical instruments in recorded music next to the piano. To that end, it may perhaps be one of the most abused as well with many of its users opting to only explore the instrument as far as its ability to entertain intimate living-room audiences. To find an artist looking outside the tight parameters of traditional song forms is rare indeed. Enter Harris Newman, whose debut Non-Sequiturs takes this common instrument and takes it on a journey most uncommon.
The first two tunes, “around about thirty-six” and “bitten”, utilize quick picking to evoke an aural landscape that wouldn’t be out of place in the swamps of the Everglades. The introduction of drums in “the bullheaded stranger” and their part in the chugging “the pyramids” is added punctuation to the myriad of rhythmic possibilities to be explored. The true masterpiece here is “forest for the trees”, a fifteen-minute strong exploration that includes some of the most frantic picking I’ve ever heard come from the instrument outside of bluegrass. Instrumentals, all of them—Harris Newman opts not to potentially sully these expressive pieces with the (again, potentially) limited language of the voice.
Perhaps patience is required to truly take in Non-Sequiturs--it doesn’t pander to an audience weaned on the structure of popular music, but it can reward the listener with a truly unique aural experience. - Jack Alberson



Earshot, January 16 2004

Non-Sequiturs is a beautiful no-frills acoustic guitar instrumental album. This record sounds like what the walls must hear whenever Harris Newman picks up his guitar to play, practice, meditate or even noodle. Newman is a noted Montreal-based finger-style guitarist who also operates Montreal's Grey Market Mastering audio facility (Polmo Polpo, Sam Shalabi, The Arcade Fire, The Dears). His style of playing is unique, informed and raw sounding. On Non-Sequiturs, Newman uses acoustic and lapsteel guitars to gently weave his subtle brand of lush underground-folk music.
This recording is a tapestry of acoustic daydreams and lullabies. Some tracks are lyrical and melodically meandering, like ¨around about thirty-six¨ and ¨the pyramids¨, other tracks are hypnotic finger picking workouts, like ¨bitten¨ and ¨sometimes a bad attitude is all it takes¨, and some tracks are ambient sleep walking pieces, like ¨feral blues¨ and ¨god is in the details¨. All of these different styles and sounds meld together to create a seamless recording which sounds like it could all be from one single impromptu performance. If you close your eyes, while listening to Non-Sequiturs, its like a free spontaneous Harris Newman concert right before your very (closed) eyes.
The production on Non-Sequiturs captures the squeaks and squawks of Newman’s fingers as they grind up and down the strings of his guitar. The microphones sound like they must have been built right into Newman’s guitar because you literally hear the instrument breathing and creaking as it is played. Bruce Cawdron (godspeedyoublackemperor) provides wallpaper percussions (drum kit, pandeiro, bodhran, bowed cymbals) on a handful of tracks and his room sound rumblings complement Newman’s guitar work beautifully. There is a stream of consciousness continuously flowing through all the tracks on this album.
Non-Sequiturs was released on Portland, Oregon based record label, Strange Attractors Audio House (www.strange-attarctors.com). The label is an offshoot from the long-running radio program on KAOS Olympia 89.3 FM which goes by the same name. Their moto is “strange oscillations in modern music” and the imprint strives to document and nurture challenging "out" music. - L Pounds



Indieville, February 9 2004

Harris Newman is Strange Attractors' latest roster member, and like labelmate Steffen Basho-Junghans, his focus is on acoustic, experimental folk, à la John Fahey and Eugene Chadbourne. Though Newman is a Montrealer, and has ties to the Constellation label (Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Fly Pan Am, One-Speed Bike, etc.), this album is far from the usual CST/Kranky fare. Instead, Non-Sequiturs is a cozy, homey record that dares to experiment with the limitless possibilities the acoustic guitar has to offer.
The pieces on Non-Sequiturs are relatively short, falling below the five minute mark most of the time - with the exception of the fifteen minute epic, "Forest for the Trees." As can predicted, this is also one of the album's best compositions; it sees Newman enlisting the help of pal Bruce Cawdron on percussion. It is easy to see the connections between Newman and Basho-Junghans on this piece - their styles are similar such than a fan of one will likely also enjoy the other.
The great thing about Non-Sequiturs is the amazing atmospheres Newman creates, despite being armed with his acoustic guitar alone. Anyone with an inkling of an attention span should be able to relate to these pieces, which range from mesmerizingly beautiful to beautifully mesmerizing. Newman's Non-Sequiturs is a must for any sophisticated music enthusiast. Words can't express how easily this album can find a permanent station in your three-disc CD player. - Matt Shimmer



Skyscraper, June 1 2004

Few artists have created a new paradigm, shifting a musical genre to a different pattern or model for others to follow. Instrumental acoustic guitarist John Fahey was one such individual. But not many have had the intelligence or focus to implement Fahey's ideas while maintaining a personal perspective or inclination. Canadian guitarist Harris Newman is part of a rare fellowship of likeminded guitarists (Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke, et al) who have, at one time or another, become immersed in Fahey's compositional matrix. Each found unique ways to work within or subvert Fahey's groundbreaking methodology. Newman has returned to Fahey's slightly psychedelic era, augmenting stark, introspective steel string fingerpicking against expansive, dancing passages. Opener "Around About Thirty-Six" could have dropped off an early Fahey or Kottke album. Newman's fingers flash sprightly across the fretboard, splashing the melody like liquid metal. That sunny mood is juxtaposed against bleaker titles such as "The Bullheaded Stranger," one of several duets with percussionist Bruce Cawdron (God Speed You Black Emperor!) that evokes Sandy Bull's quasi-jazz explorations, or aptly named "Feral Blues," a dark-hued, angry respite. Newman's debut is out of step and out of place with current instrumental releases. But that's its charm. Non-Sequiturs is an atypical collection rich in coloring, texture, and acoustics that arrives from an unexpected direction. - Doug Simpson



Foxy Digitalis, June 9 2004

Solo acoustic guitar music is a hard beast to tackle. I've heard a lot of artists I admire try their hand and fail miserably. When it goes wrong, the results are embarrassing. This is a genre that is as naked as can be and frauds are easily exposed. I am generally weary when I hear of new artists going this route and such was the case when I was first told about Harris Newman. But Newman was particularly interesting because of his Montreal background and ties to the Constellation group of musicians (he is, or perhaps was, a member of Sackville). I think of soaring ambient soundscapes and apocolyptic post rock when I hear about someone or something related to the Constellation label, so Newman's folk meanderingss caught me off guard.
This album has roots planted in country, folk, and bluegrass and Newman's grasp of these styles is evident all over "Non Sequitirs." On "The Pyramids," added drums provided by fellow Montreal musician Bruce Cawdron, move the song from a very country-ish feel into something heavier and more dense. In the early parts of the track, the drums are tight and follow the guitar closely. It's nice and clean, and the upbeat drumming reminds me of a lot of old school country music I've listened to through the years. The way the complex, fast-picked acoustic guitar plays off the simple drum beat is excellent; it creates a contrast that is not only interesting but makes you bob your head. But where it really takes off is in the second half when the drummer moves from using a closed hi-hat to keep time to a big, loud, swishing ride cymbal. While the guitar is playing basically the same thing as the first part of the song, the way the drums are played and engineered (the mix makes it sound as if they're being played in your own living room. It's brilliant) really opens the song up. It's like the first half is where they were just getting a feel for their new car, and the second half is where they loose their timidness and just floor it. The result is fantastic. I love how the drums and guitar really play off each other, and especially how its recorded in a way that gives it a live feeling. Great stuff.
Most of these tracks don't feature anything other than Newman's lone guitar. He's an extremely talented guitar player, and it's obvious he's listened to a lot of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and Robbie Basho. Tracks like "I Fought the Lottery" and "Feral Blues" have heavy hints of blues in them. One whiff of these and you'll begin questioning that he is actually from Canada. This has more in common with the Mississippi Delta than it does the cold climates of French-Canada. Other tracks, like "Trick Question" and "Bitten," lean more towards the folk stylings of Fahey. Their approach is simple and stripped down, but their delivery is not. Only the most talented of guitarists can compose and play music like this. It's light and dense all the same time. I love it.
The 15 minute "Forest For the Trees" is another excellent interplay between Newman's guitar and Cawdron's percussive abilities. There's little in the way of outright drumming here; it's mostly etheral atmospheric noises created by bowing cymbals and other instruments. The two artists have a great understanding for what each is trying to do; they create different, but complementary, images together that give the listener the full picture. This reciprocity makes the title appropriate. Each instrument alone does not give the complete picture here. One needs to hear both, at the same time, to get the full effect. It builds in intensity throughout the middle of the piece, and finally settles into dust near the end.
Harris Newman's debut is far more interesting than anything Sackville ever put out, and one can only hope that he continues pursuing this path instead. These recordings have a lot of heart and soul in them, like this is the music Newman has always wanted to make but never had the opportunity or the guts. Based on this recording, though, it's clear that he has far more in common with labelmate Steffen Basho-Junghans than he does with the group of musicans for which his hometown is known. Keeping it simple and stripped down is the best decision he's ever made. 8/10 - Brad Rose



We Love Music, June 10 2004

Harris Newman's Non-Sequiturs is the ideal album to own for driving cross-country. The experimental instrumental endeavor is the first solo disc from this Montreal musician and sounds like a mix between Americana and something else, something moody, which makes for great music as you're driving along the sweeping Canadian prairie landscape. With his intricate guitar finger-picking, and complex harmonies, this album only gets more interesting and enjoyable with every listen. Newman, a staple on the Montreal music scene for years, is known for his work with Constellation Records, most notably with his ties to Godspeed You Black Emperor! whose Bruce Cawdron plays percussion on Non-Sequiturs. My favorite song is "Sometimes a Bad Attitude is all it Takes" because it's bad-ass. It's a little heavier than the rest of the tracks and you can rock out to it while putting on your lipstick in the rearview mirror. On a whole, this mellow album is a good time for all, and it makes me feel nostalgic for road tripping. - Maia F.



 

ARCHIVED RADIO RECORDINGS

VPRO Zeldzaam Dwars live session, February 2006

No Love For Ned, March 2005

BSR, April 2005

WFMU Triple Burner, December 2003



mp3 & downloadable sounds

Butcher's Block / Stopgap Measure
recorded live at WMBR, April 2 2005

Lords & Ladies
from Accidents with Nature and Each Other


Triple Burner live on WFMU recorded December 4th 2003

Brainwashed Eye interview and performance clips



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