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North Americans, 'Classic Water'

Sometimes the beauty of simplicity is the ease in which something is presumably understood, only to be surprised. That's long been the case for North Americans, the nom de plume of guitarist Patrick McDermott, a project which, in recent years, has included pedal steel player Barry Walker. This is drift music, sustained by dusky drones and quiet fingerstyle.

"Classic Water," from Long Cool World out April 7, reassesses the duo's musical relationship. Gone are the guests that filled out the edges of previous albums and, with it, a wallpapering sense of ambient layering. Instead, McDermott's fingerpicking bucks along at a low hum as Walker's pedal steel ornaments dots of melody. Everything's as gentle as a sunkissed stream, but the synths gurgling ominously just below the surface tint the go-easy atmosphere. The pathways that once felt free and clear now sport an uneasy shade, yet the guitar picks on.

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