Words Fail is the third solo album to be released by Melbourne guitarist Shannon Bourne. While usually known for being a sideman to some of Melbourne’s most prominent singer songwriters, Words Fail sees Bourne placing his prowess as a guitarist and soundscape designer front and centre with this collection of 9 original instrumental tracks. Recorded over 2 days at the Melbourne home studio of fellow guitar hero Jeff Lang who engineered and mixed the album, Bourne has managed to paint an aural picture of textural imagery that is thought provokingly intense and comforting at the same time. Melodic, evocative and contemplative are words that come to mind when listening to this album in its entirety as the carefully constructed tones ebb and flow along with a multitude of stories that as a listener, I could have running through my brain at any given time. It is in this way that I found Words Fail to be an interactive listening experience.
The album is best listened to as a whole rather than as isolated tracks and it definitely will change its sonic perspective with each listen depending on your mindset. As anyone who follows Bourne on Instagram can attest, his constant quest for tonal perfection and expansion through the many and varied configurations of analogue pedals together with vintage and custom made guitars and amplifiers, has culminated and been showcased in this group of songs. ‘King of Knives’ is hauntingly mesmerising with its hypnotic loops that begin to take on a kind of primal chant juxtaposed with melancholic, picked out harmonic melodies. Think Neil Young’s ‘Deadman’ soundtrack then mix in some added guitar tones from Thurston Moore and some fuzz tones from J Mascis and you will be in the ballpark. There are distinctive Celtic folk influences to be heard in certain sections of tracks ‘Rothko’ and ‘Red Jag’ whilst ‘LoFi Trash Merchant’ gets down and dirty in the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Words Fail is definitely a journey that will change course with each listen. It’s raw and edgy but also sophisticated and smooth in its construction. The foundations are rock solid and the light and shade within the songs take this album to a listening plane all of its own.
Shannon Bourne launches Words Fail at Memo Music Hall St Kilda on Saturday July 14 with special guest Fenn Wilson.