Ibon Errazkin – Ibon Errazkin

3 out of 5

Label: Elefant Records

Produced by: Ibon Errazkin (?)

Somewhere between the worldly klezmer weirdness of early Camper Van Beethoven and the dusty Western-scrawled ditties of Calexico lies Spanish guitarist Ibon Errazkin’s solo debut: nine tracks of instrumental pleasantry, bringing forth the pop luster of his band Le Mans and giving it vocal-less reign to dig into some mesmerizing asides.

“Asides” is probably a key word, though. For as inventive (and as evocative of their song titles, like ‘Fanfarre’) as these tracks can be, there’s often a sense that Ibon is holding back – temporarily exploring an amusing sound. Most of the compositions feel relatively short for that reason, such that when they’re finally given room to spread out, they end, the sudden punctuation conclusion seeming like a particular fallback flourish for Errazkin. At the same time, an open-ended 9-minute track like closer Nu Creative Love is Ebon taking the concept in the opposite direction – lots of wandering touches added to an appealingly meandering guitar line, but it never quite reaches what feels like a “point,” and is thus rather mellow for an ending. Seated amongst likeminded explorations, the beauty of this track could come out, but at the tail end of music with more direct flourish, it unfortunately comes across as underwhelming.

But that’s relative: the album is flush with memorable sway and swagger, at its best when Ibon is stuffing the tracks with lots of effects and instrumentation, or letting the mood drift towards a more contemplative melancholy, or meshing different styles of rock and pop and flamenco into one brilliant swoop of melody… and all of that happens to describe the opening salvo of the album’s first three tracks. There are hints of the aforementioned restraint, and that then becomes more apparent on what follows, even if it employs a lot of the same enjoyable tactics.

A wholly pleasant solo debut, Ibon Errazkin’s self-title release sits in a middleground that’s neither pop enough or indulgent enough to feel fully defined, but it’s certainly a promising step towards the albums that would follow.