The musical journey of Anagrams, a collaboration between Shy Layers’ JD Walsh and Atlanta multi-instrumentalist Jeff Crompton, unfolds in their debut album, “Blue Voices.” Co-founded by Philip Sherburne and Albert Salinas of Balmat, Anagrams emerged from a shared appreciation for Shy Layers’ distinctive Balearic pop, leading to the creation of an album that defies easy categorization.
“Blue Voices” may initially appear to be a departure from the electronic landscape associated with Balmat, but it’s a sonic exploration that beckons listeners into a realm that hovers between ambient and non-ambient, depending on the listener’s frame of mind. Walsh and Crompton, brought together in 2016 when Walsh relocated to Atlanta, approach their collaborative music with a shared appreciation for ambiguity. Crompton, a seasoned jazz player, humorously remarks, “I like it because it’s not jazz,” while Walsh appreciates it precisely for its jazz-like qualities.
Crompton, deeply rooted in Georgia’s improvised and experimental music scenes, contributes his skills on alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, electric piano, and organ. On the other hand, Walsh, known for his work as Shy Layers, embraces his experimental side, wielding acoustic and electric guitars, electric lap steel, bass, Moog Matriarch, modular synth, and programmed drums. Together, they weave a tapestry of richly textured layers and abstract tonal assemblages.
Throughout the 11 tracks of “Blue Voices,” subtle echoes of diverse influences emerge: the atmospheric twang reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel, the mercurial modal runs characteristic of Ethio-jazz, the late-summer calm reminiscent of Fuubutsushi, and the versatility akin to the explorations of musicians like Patrick Shiroishi and Sam Gendel. However, what truly defines “Blue Voices” is the adventurous spirit of two musical minds finding a common language in an uncharted shade of blue.
The album captures the essence of a collaborative journey, as Walsh and Crompton allow their restless musical imaginations to shape the sound spontaneously. “Blue Voices” becomes a testament to the beauty found in the process of creation, where two voices meld into an exploration of an unexplored musical territory, resulting in an album that is as enigmatic as it is compelling.