Bow & Clatter by Many Pretty Blooms (Album Review)

Another summer is almost over, and another autumn is just around the corner. This time of year offers precious moments of retrospection; as the days get shorter, our thoughts contradictorily have more room to grow. Though there is a bittersweet tinge to the dwindling warmth, failed romances, and missed opportunities, there is also a subtle beauty in the closing of one chapter and the beginning of the next. On "Bow & Clatter" by Many Pretty Blooms, the solo project of Johnny Wilkins of Austin, Texas, loop-based guitar instrumentals and haunting bow work produce earthy textures that create a similar aura to that of a fading season. Part of Whitelabrecs' eRecords series, this stunning collection is gorgeous from start to finish. 

Across forty minutes and seven tracks, Wilkins gifts his audience with an emotionally-driven acoustic ambient landscape that often feels like the embrace of a lover clinging to you for body heat on a chilly autumn night. Though the song structures here are decidedly loose and free-form, there is a cohesion in the narrative mood that makes discernible musical passages completely unnecessary. 

The opening track, "Spurious Realities", is a gentle introduction to this seasonal fare and features woody rhythms and delicate harmonics that pan across the stereo mix and swirl around your head like fallen leaves in a gentle breeze. "Hidden in Dreams" is a slow-burning and ethereal cut that forgoes any accessible melody, preferring instead to use the quality of sound alone to communicate the message. Here, we can clearly hear the rattling of acoustic strings, the hairs of the bow reverberating, and the rich warmth of the room they were recorded in. "Strange Motif" stretches everything out further, like a flood that washes across parched fields; you can almost smell the petrichor in the rising delay. "Unknown Delaware" is more rhythmic and twangy but just as sweet as the previous pieces. Found right in the middle of the album, it provides a bridge connecting the first half's twilight mood with the moonlit beauty of the second. Like on "Hallelujah", where glitchy somethings in the background decorate the lush bowed strings; played as heavily as the blanket of night. "Plaited Constellation" is a joyous and more neoclassical number that sees some simple repetition unfold over six minutes of undeniable lure. On first listen, it sounds like there is nothing here. There is so much empty space and lack of form that it's difficult to know where our attention should be. It takes some time. Eventually, you realize you're already where you're supposed to be. Wilkins is not a conductor of a train carrying you from one destination to the next but rather a tour guide of your immediate surroundings. "Holding Hands, We Traverse the Lunar Caves" is a stellar closing track, the immediacy of which feels simultaneously refreshing in its accessibility and conclusive after such a pleasant but static journey. Like a sunrise after a long dark night, everything which preceded is given more profound meaning. 

These tracks stretch in a unique and pretty way, and there are not many acts I can think of for comparison, though the electronic folk work of The Declining Winter springs to mind. While it sometimes feels like not enough is happening, that's precisely the point. At a time in human existence when we have been programmed to search for immediate gratification and where a foreword thinking outlook is a sign of virtue, Wilkin's strange and mystical music has the power to remind us to slow down, take it all in, and simply appreciate the passing of time.  


Bow and Clatter by Many Pretty Blooms (Album Review)
Reviewed by Jay Honeycomb on April 18th 2022
Rating: 4