There’s a hillbilly fiddle sound we all associate with the bluegrass movement and the Grand Old Opry. That’s where the roots of Bill MacKay’s sound reach down to, but he’s grown far above that. MacKay mixes traditional instruments with elements of the New Age sound, light rock, and avant-garde. It’s all instrumental, but it’s not all the same.
“Persona” opens with the same single string line that began “I Think We’re Alone Now” then shifts into a mutating rhythm overlaid with long slowly modulated violin notes. Odd scratching percussion, a broken rain stick, and a sense of menace complete what isn’t exactly a tune, and isn’t exactly a soundscape. “Powder Mill Park” begins as an electric blues song would, but never picks up the angry intensity a wronged woman or a cheating man. It’s a steady beat; interesting in its own right and with the backbone to stand up to any improvisation by drum or key board.
Aster might be a soundtrack to an indie film that never emits a spoken word; all of MacKay’s compositions have that intense ecstasy that creation can give a man with musical skills. No twist and shout here, just a solid musicianship derived from the roots of Americana and sure to set newer composers in motion.