If you know anything about Yellow6 (aka Jon Attwood), you know that he releases music at an insanely prolific rate. In the past seven years, he's put out roughly an album a year, plus tracks on compilations, EPs, and singles. He also puts out a huge amount of work on CDR, including yearly Merry Xmas discs that have sometimes contained well over an hour of new music. To date, my favorite music of his is still the long tracks he did for the Catherine Whiskey EP on the Jonathon Whiskey label, but his 3CD set The Beautiful Season Has Past also compiled a huge amount of great tracks with very little filler.
In terms of his recent discography, his last album Melt Inside felt like a massive letdown to me. It was the first time that he'd really tried to incorporate vocals (from singer Ally Todd) into his tracks, and the result sounded like a big stumble, either because of Todd's over-dramatic singing style and sometimes cringe-worthy lyrics, or simply because it was such a break from his usual sound. If his last album was a big step into a different direction, then Painted Sky finds him completely back into his element, with guitar-based tracks that largely drift in the ether.
The album opens with "I Know I Shouldn't (But I Do)" and "I Loved You More Before I Knew You Loved Me," and the two tracks are essentially slight variations on the same sun-soaked theme. With desert-dry guitars, they both sound like plays on spaghetti western soundtracks, with the former mixing in some soft synth pads and distorted electric guitar while the latter is even more haunting and sparse with overlapping wails of guitar drone underneath the undulating melodies.
On "Common," the album changes up as Attwood introduces some programmed beats, and the song progresses pretty nicely over the course of almost eight minutes, with a couple slight rises and falls that build just enough tension to keep things interesting. When he moves away from the guitar as a focal instrument, the results aren't quite as pleasing. The piano-driven "Nye 2" takes some simple melodies and buries them in effects, seemingly trying to tug something more interesting out of them, while the spaced-out "Realisation" drifts on hazy synths and some sparse guitar notes for almost six minutes without changing up much.
The release doesn't shake out of that more drifting vastness until the latter half of "Eighteen Days," where some distant drums move things forward nicely, and then the closing two songs of the release bring mixed programmed beats back for more of a backbone. With ten songs running an hour in length, Painted Sky contains both a hand-full of great tracks as well as several that simply don't add much to the album. That said, Painted Sky is a solid return to form that's as solid as anything he's done since Lake:Desert. Ambient guitar-heads rejoice.