Seemingly pulled out of an antique china case after years of shelf life, Willis Earl Beal dusts the shelves off and emerges with a poignant yet simple batch of tunes with his debut anthem, Acousmatic Sorcery. Throughout the album a few characteristics stand out, but out of its many blues like qualities the one that I see potentially defining the album as a whole is its rawness. This is as raw and unrefined as they come. The pulse is saturated in simplistic guitar tones and chords droning through blues patterns, but ultimately directing it into an unconventional hum of soul.
Although I do enjoy the honest groan of Beal’s raspy but rewarding voice, I feel that there is a need for some constructive criticism here. Beal, who recorded and wrote many of these songs while living in New Mexico managed to lay most of these tracks down with little to no musical supplies or even recording equipment, which at the very least is a feat. However, the monotonous clatter and banter which underlies the whole and body of his songs become a bit of a distraction as the listener attempts to decipher between simplicity and noise. I could foresee many listeners struggling to find the album as a whole pleasantly listenable as it shows a Tom Waits type industrial growl but without the instrumentation.
There is a visceral and raspy beauty to Beal’s demeanor however, and although the musicianship is rather elementary, the sincere methodical pulse is undeniable. The track “Monotony” displays Beal’s rather pure vocal talent, showing not only his range but also his bare, un-doctored voice. The “less is more” approach is apparent on most of his songs, which he uses to his advantage.
It’s difficult to sum the album up holistically, but his honest method of displaying who he really is something one can’t really argue with. Acousmatic Sorcery was originally released with flyers of his self-portrait drawing and his phone number seeking out people to inquire about his music, which I believe is a hugely endearing move on his part. Although Beal is talented, his voice is heartfelt and his album is uncomplicated he still has some growth to do before reaching a more diverse listening audience. But maybe we need more simplistic, honest musicians breathing through the airwaves. If you do need to make a request or have an issue with his album though, I’m sure you could find his phone number and dialogue it with him yourself.