Marisa Anderson is one of the most eminent guitarists working today. Her lucid, eloquent approach to guitar music and composition has established her as an unparalleled artist and an insightful, coveted collaborator. Anderson’s work draws on a mosaic of folk musics and lives in conversation with myriad musical traditions. Her music is inviting and candid, beckoning the listener into sprawling ecosystems and intimate corners alike, from barren landscapes to verdant thickets, impassioned communal experiences to pensive reclusions. As a master of her instrument, Anderson translates abstractions into undeniably moving music, tracing through traditional folk tunes, imagined Sci-Fi films, and foggy sanctuaries of sound. Still, Here is Anderson at her most direct, laying bare her practice of processing and understanding the world through music and distilling that practice into pieces as expressive as they are transfixing.
The pieces of Still, Here center around Anderson’s present. The album is a compendium of living moments captured by her preternatural ability to mold human realities into enduring, lyrical compositions. Away from the road for the longest stretch of her career, the making of Still, Here affirmed for Anderson the role of the guitar as an essential tool in processing external and internal realities. “I don’t get ideas and then turn to the guitar, rather I turn to the guitar to find out what my ideas are. I turn towards it for meaning.” The discordance of protest and upheaval emanates from a propulsive acoustic ostinato and mournful dueling pedal steel guitars on “The Fire This Time,” pausing only to allow space for the blare of sirens on the Portland street near Anderson’s studio. “The Crack Where the Light Gets In” rapturously revels in the glimmers of hope that peek through a pall of darkness. Across Still, Here, Anderson’s playing transmutes the tributaries of fluctuating emotions into a unified flow, stirring and sublime.
Anderson’s compositional process is flexible and wide ranging, resulting in a collection of pieces that are varied in tone and timbre. Still, Here’s improvisational pieces like the seething “The Fire This Time” and the achingly beautiful “Waking” showcase Anderson’s immediate and sheer elemental capacity to speak through her instrument. Anderson transforms the traditional tune of personal tragedy “La Llorona” by deftly pairing the intimate, physical sound of a nylon string acoustic guitar with a hazy, otherworldly electric guitar. “In Dark Water” propels kinetic fingerpicked figures across a weightless droning synthesizer and scattered electric piano. A hypnotic requinto on “Night Air,” which was sampled on Matmos’ 2020 album The Consuming Flame, steadily oscillates a repeated riff as emphatic piano chords trade chordal melodies.
Still, Here emphatically makes the case for Anderson’s profound artistry, each piece intimately revealing a new aspect of Anderson as a player and as a human being navigating the path laid before her. Marisa Anderson’s Still, Here is for the listener an alchemical salve, the work of a gifted player with an exceptional ability to convey the complexities of the human experience through composition.