When I read about Trevor Gordon Hall and his ‘kalimbatar,’ I knew I had to check it out. Sticking a kalimba to the top of your guitar could easily be considered gimmicky. But when done right, experiments like this can lead to new possibilities and, most importantly, good music.
On Entelechy, Trevor introduces us to his new instrument with a collection of strong, melodic compositions, tastefully integrating the kalimba in various ways. The opener Kalimbatar sets the mood for things to come, with the guitar setting up a groove as the kalimba slowly becomes more prominent in the arrangement.
On songs like this one, the kalimba acts like an extension of the guitar, adding depth and dimension to the sound. But on others, they sound like two separate instruments, sometimes letting you forget that it’s one guy playing both at the same time. Like on the title-track, where Trevor plays the kalimba and guitar in counterpoint, their melodies weaving in and around each other. It’s a short and beautiful piece.
Another standout song for me was Whenever It Rains, where the guitar leaves open spaces for the kalimba to respond with short, pensive phrases. The open and floating feel of the track reminds me a lot of Rickover’s Dream by Michael Hedges.
But moving beyond how the kalimba was used, this is a really strong album with great musicianship and thoughtful arrangements. Trevor switches things around enough to keep things interesting, introducing new elements when you’re not expecting them, like the percussion on That Old Familiar Plan, or the slide guitar on Signposts.
There are also many different styles coming through in the music, from classical to indie rock…I even hear some Soundgarden in the climax for Story.
I’m looking forward to more music from Trevor, and curious to see how his playing with the kalimba develops further. I imagine it will only get better as he gets more comfortable with it.