Lost Futures, the debut collaborative album by guitarists Marisa Anderson and William Tyler, takes its name from an idea formulated by the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher. The concept’s cynical premise is a system of knockback, where ambitions, hopes, and ideals are left denied. The title makes sense. Who among us hasn’t been thwarted by the ravages of the pandemic? It’s how you respond that counts.
With these minimal, plaintive, porch-side instrumentals, our two axe aces have sought to map out a series of possible hereafters, with all their attendant rich imagery and touched by a tenderness only few musicians can muster.
Opening track “News About Heaven” readily evokes the canyons and desert plains of American hinterlands as melancholic six-string chimes jostle with Gisela Rodriguez Fernandez’s keening violin arco, recalling the slow-motion Spaghetti Western pacing of Bruce Langhorne’s score for Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand. Meanwhile, “Pray for Rain” could be the soundtrack to a window-side vigil in some remote Mexican outpost, the godforsaken venue for two drifters locked in a post-apocalyptic embrace, looking to the skies, waiting for the heavens to burst. This album works like a dream-weave of the near-possible, a forger of unlikely paths never followed, creating partial worlds only fleetingly visited.
Perhaps it is ironic, then, that the album’s least traditionally rooted cut, and the only misstep here, is an idiomatic cul-de-sac obscuring those alternate futures that reside on the cusp of our consciousness. The motorik pulse of “Something Will Come” is totally at odds with the prevailing moods of delicate serenity and backwater bliss found across Lost Futures. Tyler’s peeling dulcimer and Anderson’s electric guitar squall seek out breaches in the rhythmic tyranny but are perennially engulfed in the relentless express of this fascistic autobahn pilgrimage.
Fortunately, and in direct defiance of Fisher’s pessimistic notions, Anderson and Tyler end up cashing the check of their album’s early promise. “Life and Casualty” brims with a sequence of precipitous notes like a piece lifted from Chicagoan acoustic supergroup Pullman’s Turnstyles & Junkpiles, before a riff momentarily skirts around the theme from Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Closer “Haunted By Water” finds Anderson’s Gibson 339 jettisoning loping runs and swampy arpeggios, referencing Ry Cooder’s evocative contributions on Southern Comfort while suggesting a grinning camel’s gumboot romp through deepest bayou country.
Like a serving of soul food at the better-tomorrow cafe, Lost Futures offers sustenance, sanguinity, and comfort, its widescreen panoramas stimulating wonderous imaginative flights, its homespun charms providing timely succor.