They say, in the boxing world, styles make fights. There are brawlers and scientific fighters. In the music world, style often defines an artist. I speak of style not in terms of genre but, instead, the stamp on their music distinguishing them from other artists. Ian Bouras is a stylist. A Blind Painter’s Guide to Coloring Breath, his latest release, is an eight track demo collection Bouras has released after a year of hospitalizations in a variety of psychiatric units resulting from Ataxia, a seldom seen neurological disorder affecting how he plays guitar. Bouras recorded these demos before the aforementioned hospitalizations and, upon release, found he could not remember how to play the material or exactly what direction he intended to take with the further development of these compositions.
A Blind Painter’s Guide to Coloring Breath, despite this, sounds remarkably finished. The release begins with “A Fleeting Life in a Square”. It’s emblematic of Bouras’ instrumental work – spacious and spontaneous arrangements with minimal effects, reverb and echo, shaping his guitar sound. Anyone hoping to hear drums or bass will be disappointed. That is not what Ian Bouras does. There is a poetic quality to everything he does and that’s no exception here. “An Evening at the Villa” has a similar quality, but there’s more of a sunset spirit inhabiting this track than the first performance. Bouras is an unabashed master of invoking atmospherics through his music but it never comes at the expense of musicality. This illustrates that quite well.
“Solace in the Shade of the Universe” is one of the most interesting tracks on the release. It’s obvious Bouras is reaching for a different texture during this cut than we hear on the earlier numbers – it has a much more far reaching progressive character than earlier tracks without ever veering too far from his signature style. “The Necessity of Continual Movement”, the album’s penultimate track, has the same general design as the other seven tracks, but there are subtle variations in his approach with this track distinguishing it from other cuts on this release.
The finale “Weeks Become Months, and Memories Become Melodies” is an ideal closer. Attentive listeners will note how the album’s emotional tenor reaches a peak moment with this track and it is clear Bouras invests much more inner capital to make this a successful performance. Few fully-fleshed out releases can boast the realized sound and construction we hear on A Blind Painter’s Guide to Coloring Breath. Ian Bouras endured, like many, a tumultuous 2020, but his latest collection stands as a tribute to his continuing perseverance in the face of intractable illness. We will hear from him again and he will be, fate willing, stronger than ever before. Music such as this is an important thread in the tapestry of modern musical art and well worth seeking out despite its unusual and challenging nature.
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