It’s fairly safe to say that this album is unlike anything else you’ll hear this winter. Doc Ventura is a guitarist extraordinaire, though what you get from his music is far more of an emotional and creative audio experience than a simple showcasing of impressive ability. Without doubt, his skills have been honed to an incredibly impressive level, but it is his approach to composition that truly makes this so unique.
Beginning with Feeling Uneasy, the crisp acoustic sound of the slide guitar offers up the ambient brightness and smooth musicality of any of the best, minimal yet mighty, instrumental releases from throughout the past couple of years. His playing is hypnotic, and because the melody is brand new, it makes for an absolute breath of fresh air.
The project’s title track comes in second and the sound is suddenly connected to a certain country twang that tells an entirely different kind of story. That being said, it follows on in a logical manner. This concept of Kenosis and the Box within which it is kept is an intriguing one. Without the presence of lyrics the story is filled in only by the guitar and the mind of the listener. If you choose to dig a little deeper you might stumble upon a more secure pathway, but for the new listener, the experience is enlightening in an enjoyable and free sort of way. These tracks are not composed nor structured in any standard or predictable manner. The music meanders as any great story does, and that makes it consistently interesting to witness, and notably calming to have surround you as you go about your morning.
As Hanging Pole comes into play something slightly grittier, perhaps darker, begins to emerge. Doc Ventura has seemingly taken an overall, conceptual approach to this album, so to listen in full is like watching the movie unfold, scene by scene. The contrast between the intense scratch and slide of this and the following delicacy of Demon’s Progress underlines this beautifully. Despite the somewhat evil connotations of the title, the music of the latter track has a joyful and optimistic rhythm, a shuffle of possibility, lulling you into a false sense of comfort but keeping the sense of intrigue well and truly alive. The story-line presented by this particular melody is wonderful, the first riff so far, perhaps, that really leaves its mark in your mind as any great hook would.
Ocean Of Devotion sees the instrumentation open up to create a broader, multi-layered soundscape. The word ocean and the emerging brightness of the performance immediately soaks you in images of the sun slowly rising from behind a sea of possibilities. The infectious rhythm returns, the swagger of the movement captivates you and toys with your mood in a positive way. The descending riff has a slightly Bob Dylan-like nature to it for me, one of only a couple of comparisons that come to mind when you lose yourself in this collection.
Newer Pony Blues makes perfect sense somehow as it follows the colourful ocean of audio that preceded it. This track is delightfully unusual, veering off in a number of excitable directions, showcasing a string of solo-instrumental skills that powerfully highlight the endless possibilities when utilising the various sounds of the guitar. The story here makes you smile and wonder all at once, a common occurrence as you forage around in the Box. Unring That Bell has a similar effect, keeping things unpredictable and incredibly striking. The sheer level of complexity and variety that is presented here by means of, for the most part, a single acoustic instrument, is phenomenal.
Things brighten up rhythmically again for 4th Of July, there’s a simple joy to the sound but it’s not without a lingering sense of turmoil or upcoming difficulty. The various changes, pauses, the general evolution throughout the track, make for a mesmerising few minutes. Supernatural Recap follows with a spacious, reverb-soaked ambiance that provokes deep thought, even a touch of self-reflection as it pours out around you. This one is a highlight for me, though it has an eerie darkness about it that might not make for the most confident start to your day.
Villains And Thieves switches up the pace and sense of adventure, providing a manic and bass-accompanied soundscape that is both minimalist and mighty – intricate, wild, energizing. River is The Cognoman reverses the effect, slowing things down, making you feel as if you’ve stepped through the mirror somehow and been confronted with a new kind of truth. Pick Your Burden Up falls into your lap in an overwhelmingly spacious and provocative manner, forcing upon you the stillness required to absorb all that has come to pass. The scene feels like the final moments of a desert wanderer, perhaps confronting the errors of his ways.
Things come to a close with the pessimistically titled yet strangely hopeful sounding My Past is Falling Apart. Once you’ve listened to this album for the ideas it arouses within you, it’s more than worth the while to listen over again for the sheer beauty and skill of the musicianship (or vice-versa). Doc Ventura creates magnificent music from nothing but a guitar and an unwavering level of passion and creativity. Box Of Kenosis is a stunning collection that would make the ideal choice for fans of true and ever-impressive musicianship. Grab yourself a whisky and enjoy.