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Carl Weingarten — The Simian River Collection 1980-2020
(Bandcamp no#, 2020/2023, 3CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-06-02

The Simian River Collection 1980-2020 Cover art

Anytime one comes across an artist who has over four decades worth of releases, covering a wide range of styles and ideas, a fair question to ask is “Where do I begin?” In the case of Carl Weingarten, his path has followed some interesting turns and twists, but all along that path, the guitarist has generally stayed within the boundaries of instrumental music, ranging from fingerstyle to ambient and electronic compositions, often with pioneering use of slide, dobro / resonator, looping and eBow, among other eclectic innovations, together making his sound unique and recognizable, but not easily categorizable. With over two dozen albums spanning his career from 1980 to present, the question of where a newcomer can dive in becomes even more important to get the best and broadest perspective of Weingarten’s work. The Simian River Collection is a three-CD 41 track limited edition compilation of selected tracks from his solo releases throughout the first 40 years of his musical career, also available as a download. This set does not include any of his work with Delay Tactics, nor any of his numerous collaborations with the likes of Forrest Fang, Walter Whitney, Gale Ormiston, Joe Venegoni, Catherine Charlton, and perhaps others I’m unaware of. The first disc in the set is subtitled All Things Return 1980-1990, which delves into his early years, which are somewhat influenced by Fripp and Eno’s work with electronics and loops, drawing tracks from Laughing at Paradise, Living in the Distant Present, Pandora’s Garage (actually a 1992 release) as well as three previously unreleased numbers, including the heavily sequenced “Pandora’s Garage” (it was never on the album of the same name, a missing title track) which features eerie voice tracks in the mix, almost sounding like something Richard Pinhas could have done, plus “Lost Guitars” and a live version of “The Slo-Guitar” from Pandora’s Garage. Most of these tracks, as well as those that come later in this set, involve a lot of other musicians guesting on various instruments, a list far too long to detail in this review, but know that the arrangements are superb throughout.

The second disc in this set is subtitled Hand in the Sand 1990-2005, which was previously released as a stand-alone single disc compilation at the time. And we reviewed it back in our printed Exposé days, but nobody can seem to find that review now, so it’s worthy of a fresh look anyway. It covers selected tracks from Pandora’s Garage (one more for good measure), five from Blue Faith, three from the all acoustic Redwood Melodies, two each from Escapesilence and Local Journeys, and one each from The Acoustic Shadow and Slide of Hand, the latter of which (to date) has never seen a re-release beyond its original casette format. This is a strong disc with many highlights, including the opener “Local Journeys,” “My Beautiful Moon,” the seven minite centerpiece from Blue Faith “Illumina Suite” and “Pedro’s Lament” from the same album, “Up the Down Slide” and “Cambodian Waltz,” an outstanding foray into world music with slide guitar. One previously unreleased cut, the six-plus minute “Holographic Blues” very obviously features Michael Manring on fretless bass over a churning loop with Weingarten supplying slide embelishments and elastic soaring electric leads. Moving on to the third disc, subtitled The Simian River 2005-2020, pulling its title track from an almost-eight minute track from Panamorphia, which also features a strong selection of material from This Is Where I Found You, Life Under Stars, and the most recent release represented on this collection, Ember Days. Conspicuously absent here are any tracks from 2016’s An Endless Premonition, although with nearly every track on that album breaking the ten minute mark, I think I understand why, and nothing from his only live album Lost in the Air from 2008, though on disc three we have the highest concentration of previous unreleased material, including a remixed version of “The River King” from This Is Where I Found You, a few short tracks (“Found the Others,” “Ei Saa Mitte Vaiki Olla” (a beautiful Estonian folk vocal piece), “Bunk Beds Reprise,” and the stunning, almost-danceable five-minute full-band piece “Dublin”). So, to that initial question: this is where you begin, and even for the hardcore fan that has every album, there is more than enough unreleased material here to make this set a worthwhile purchase.

Filed under: Archives, 2023 releases, 2020 recordings

Related artist(s): Michael Manring, Carl Weingarten, Jeff Oster

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