Pictures, it was John Abercrombie's turn to record the only completely solo album of his career. A masterclass in gorgeous melodies and perfectly-realised overdubbing, Characters comes across like a looser (semi-improvised at times), more fluid precursor to Pat Metheny's New Chautauqua. Opening with a sole, echo-laden electric mandolin, tuned as to effectively be a soprano guitar (and Abercrombie staple in this era), the lengthy Parable eventually fills out into a spectacular tapestry of guitar layers.
After this memorable introduction, the meat of the album is composed of beautifully languid duets for different layers of acoustic and liquid electric guitar, plus a further two standout tracks in their use of effects. Ghost Dance is chilly and atmospheric in its use of reverb and delay, and closer Evensong employs echo/volume pedal effects to almost evoke a small organ or harmonium, before filling out with spindly, rushing arpeggios. This evocative soundscape closes a great album on a high, and makes you want to start right over again with the other outstanding track Parable. The fact that there's nothing else quite like Characters in Abercrombie's catalogue makes it all the more essential listening.