Long-time readers of textura are probably aware of the fervour with which we embrace guitar-centric albums, so they'll already know that Ivan Čkonjević's fourth album Bardo.Vertep. received a particularly enthusiastic welcome when it showed up at our door. Put simply, the Belgrade, Serbia-based composer (and member of Belgrade Noise Society and rock band Ana Never) creates positively heavenly music using nothing more than electric guitar and associated effects pedals, loopers, and violin bow/e-bow. Čkonjević makes slow-motion music that one might describe as somnambulant yet at the same time it's rich with detail and filled with incident.
Inspired by an Olga Tokarczuk story from her book Gra na wielu bebenkach (Playing on Many Drums), the opening piece “EXP. Bardo.Vertep.” unfolds for eighteen elegiac minutes, with the guitar's mournful cry gracefully swooping and arcing against a gently murmuring backdrop. Relative to the first piece, the lower guitar pitch in the second setting, “EXP. Kroz prozor voza - svetla na horizontu,” adjusts the tone from heavenly to earth-bound without sacrificing the material's fundamental ethereal character. Here too the e-bow's cry acts as a ghostly lead voice amidst the surrounding shudder, after which “EXP. Srne” slows things down even further for a stirring exercise in time-suspension. “EXP. Moja pesma ce ti biti smešna,” a re-arrangement of music recorded in 2008 for a short film by Milica Jovcic, ends the album with fifteen minutes of becalmed sound sculpting; guitar plucks, washes, and cries come together one final time to guide the listener out on a limpid tide of minimal ambient-drone drift.
Though there's a programmatic dimension to Bardo.Vertep. 's material (the second and third pieces apparently were inspired by places alongside the railroad from Belgrade to Subotica), Čkonjević never includes literal references to the real world in the four long-form settings. That's a good thing, as it makes it easier for the listener to experience them as ravishing vistas of pure guitar-generated sound.