A unique mix of warmth and virtuosity from Blackpool-born acoustic guitar supremo, Jon Gomm.
Release Date: 16th October 2020
Formats: CD / 3CD / 2LP / Digital
The phrase “Jon Gomm is a Blackpool-born, Leeds-based acoustic guitar virtuoso and The Faintest Idea is latest album and his first as a signed artist” sounds simple, but it doesn’t go anywhere close to conveying what a stunning piece of work this new album is. It’s almost impossible to believe that the sounds that emerge during this incredible collection of songs, tunes and soundscapes are the product of just two instruments – John’s guitar and the complimentary synthesizer touches from Andy Sorenson. Jon Gomm uses the acoustic guitar in an absolutely unique way in which rhythm, melody, effects and percussion are all achieved, simultaneously, from Jon’s two hands. The whole effect is simply breathtaking – if you’re a guitarist, either accomplished or aspirational, you HAVE to hear this guy to understand just what an acoustic guitar can do.
And the music… Well – it’s impossible to classify. Neither jazz, nor folk, nor ambient, the overall sound captures strains of each of those genres and much more, to construct a style that is fascinating, alluring and mystifying. Perhaps the closest comparison I can offer is an effects-less John Martyn from the Solid Air era, but that only offers the slightest indication of what to expect – you really have to hear it for yourself.
And there are some terrific pieces of music here. The album kicks off with showpiece song, Deep Sea Fishes. Inspired by a television documentary on marine life in the ocean’s deepest depths, Jon was at first horrified by the appearance of the creatures that inhabit that environment, before realizing that they, like us, are produced from a union between two similarly hideous creatures – so he wrote a Marine Trench love song! The song is the album’s first example of how a guitar and synthesizer can combine to deliver the sound of a full orchestra, and the accompanying video demonstrates just how it’s done – you must watch it!
Cocoon is the album’s latest single; mellow and jazzy, it’s another showcase for yet more amazing guitar gymnastics. This is an album packed with highlights, but even in this field of sunflowers there are a few tall blooms that that out-blossom the rest. The Ghost Inside You is one such example; a divine instrumental track on which Andy’s synth provides a ghostly foundation upon which Jon builds a symphonic collage. Likewise, Check You’re Still Breathing allows Jon to exercise his four-blokes-in-one guitar technique on an awesome display of harmonics, rhythm, lead and percussion. At the other end of the spectrum, Song For a Rainy Day is the album’s closest thing to a conventional song, which even so still features the (by now) familiar multi-tasking virtuosity.
The album’s closing tracks are Swallow You Whole, a lengthy exercise with minimal vocal content and, possibly, the most interesting track on the album, and Until The Sun Destroys the Earth a sparse, jazzy song which, like Song For a Rainy Day, almost approaches “conventional song” territory and which leaves the listener with an overall impression of the album that is memorable, warm and mellow.
Whilst this review has, with justifiable reason, focused principally upon Jon’s peerless guitar style and prowess, his lyrical capability and his singing are also both worthy of a mention. The lyrics are thoughtful and poetic and are delivered in a voice that is, in equal parts, frail, mellow and tuneful and these aspects of The Faintest Idea serve to round off an incredible album.
The CD version of The Faintest Idea comes in two formats: a single CD or a three disc set comprising the original album, a second disc featuring a stripped-back version of the songs, a DVD showing performance of six songs, guitar technique presentations and a 35-minute interview with Jon Gomm. The deluxe three disc version also includes a hardback book featuring illustrations, song descriptions, hand-written lyrics and full-track tablature for the song Check You’re Still Breathing (which, to anyone with guitar skills that match my own will probably be as useful as a one-page guide to reading Chinese…!)
Watch the official video for Deep Sea Fishes from the album here: