Dean McPhee
Astral Gold

(Bass Ritual)


There’s hardly a drought of open-eared guitarists exploring the creative boundaries of their chosen instrument; yet Dean McPhee stands out as a true one-off in a crowded field.

The Yorkshire-based solo electric guitarist subscribes neither to the folk & blues rooted gnarly solo acoustic tradition exemplified by John Fahey and, in the UK, the late great Michael Chapman (McPhee contributed one of the highlights to I Thought I Told You, Tompkins Square’s superlative new tribute to the latter) or the psychedelically orientated electric explorations of, say, Chris Forsyth or Cian Nugent. Instead, Astral Gold nods towards the ’70s echoplex explorations of John Martyn: delay pedals and tape loops are utilised to build minimalist symphonies for a solitary Telecaster, starting with a simple motif and layering on additional riffs and melodies in different tones and textures until the outcomes accrue a hypnotic intricacy.

Genuinely cosmic in both a figurative and literal sense (the six tracks share cosmological themes), and recorded entirely in full live takes, Astral Gold shakes off conventional solo guitar manoeuvres even more thoroughly than 2021’s superb Witch’s Ladder. Anchored by the thudding pulse generated by a kick drum, the atmospheric, reverb-laden proceedings often channel the slow motion echo chamber ethos of dub reggae or the nocturnal inner space explorations of more cerebral electronic music. From the haunting slow-burn of ‘Cosmos’ to kosmische float of ‘Neptune’, Astral Gold excels in sparse majesty, culminating in ‘The Sediment of Creation’: the 10-minute epic accrues a desolate beauty during its intense journey, simultaneously weightless and monolithic like an abandoned space station drifting through the immense emptiness of space.