If anyone has earned the right to avoid the standard review complaint of an artist "not branching out" and "lacking an original sound," it's Robin Guthrie. While other artists scramble to reassemble existing sounds and styles into something more their own, Guthrie long ago helped define a sound that others have been copying—sometimes more and sometimes less directly—ever since. From his days founding the Cocteau Twins, complete with his reverb-heavy, almost bell-like guitar tone, he has consistently refined that singular sound through to the present. He's not been experimenting with the latest trends and gimmicks in the industry, and neither has he worried with trying to reinvent himself in order to stay in step with the short attention span pop culture. No, what he helped create in the first place has been working just fine, thank you.
Although his solo career is still a bit overshadowed by his prior band's work, it has nonetheless been consistently growing over the past several years. More than a side project, it has taken over a life of its own, currently resulting in three solo albums, a handful of EPs, a smattering of collaborations, and several film scores. Stylistically, this later sound takes its cue from Victorialand-era Cocteau material, on through their collaboration with ambient composer Harold Budd, until now where he finally uses his guitar techniques to fill out the whole of the sound canvas. His latest release is Carousel, another instrumental album of his trademarked layered guitar soundscapes.
"Some Sort Of Paradise" starts thing off with more of a graceful bow than a resolute bang. The album, on the whole, is just barely mid-tempo, keeping things light and pleasant. Shimmering guitars are front and center, with light counterpoint bass parts and the occasional percussion line. As an opener, "Paradise" does an excellent job for setting the mood of the album without overselling it.
Following this is "Sparkle," which is as short as it is sweet, and represents the most decidedly hooky track on the record. Genre logic prevents me from calling it a single (what does an instrumental shoegazer-ambient 'single' do, exactly?), but it serves a similar function as being the most immediately accessible track on the album. Teasingly short? Yes. Undeniable Guthrie-bliss? Indeed.