This sprawling collection by Belgian loner blues savant Bram Devens aka Ignatz encapsulates the mystery, murk, and melancholy of his uncanny craft at its most windswept and wayward. Originally issued via Goaty Tapes in September of 2015, this long-anticipated vinyl edition expands the saga with an additional 17 minutes of archival material. Deven’s palette remains constant throughout: feathery fingerpicking, modal loops, and intuitive six-string navigations interspersed with candlelit passages of mournful voice, alternately whispered, mumbled, moaned. His is an aesthetic of embers and resin, cracked masks and distant lights, of what’s left behind and what lingers on.
I Live In A Utopia was recorded following a relocation from his longtime base of Brussels to Landen, with a second child due soon: “I remember the weather being nice and having just bought a hammock.” The change of scenery seeded a promise of slower days and lighter times – no utopia perhaps, but a sense of faint hope glowing on the horizon. The songs slide between loose acoustic spirituals and smoky basement ragas, late afternoon haze and midnight moons, a seesawing restlessness reflected in the titles (“I Have Found True Love,” “Time Does Not Bring Relief,” “We Used To Smoke Inside”). The fidelity is grainy but vivid, refracted by tape warp and Flemish dust.
As always, Deven’s playing is deceptively elegant, raw but precise, attuned to resonance, radiance, and negative space. Echoes of Fahey and Jandek reverberate in certain moments but ultimately the world Ignatz maps is one incomparably his own. A landscape both doomed and dawning, weary but undefeated, tracing outlines of lengthening shadows. “I walk in the sunshine,” he sings, uneasily. This is music of a rare inner wilderness, poised at cryptic crossroads, devoted to its ghosts. I Live In A Utopia stands as an apex work by one of the underground’s most veiled and visionary talents.