After the inauguration comes the aftermath. If 2016’s ‘Mangy Love’ reflected a world on the brink of chaos, ‘Tip of the Sphere’ takes place bang in the centre of it all. Recorded in one rapid session rather than in his usual unhurried manner, it has revealed a far more experimental side to McCombs than on previous records, and is all the better for it.
There is a freewheeling spirit to much on display, with a distinct nod towards the likes of David Crosby and Tim Buckley on the extended psychedelic jams that bookend the album. ‘I Followed The River South To What’ meanders and drifts like the titular water, transcending into a shimmering and bewitching guitar solo, an immediately looser feel to McCombs’ vocals on this back-and-forth between an unknown character and a homeless person. While the first half may stick fairly closely to his usual style of laid-back, gentle Americana, it soon drifts into a whole new spirit of adventure.
‘Sleeping Volcanoes’ may be his best work yet, and certainly his biggest earworm, describing a civilisation permanently on the point of violent eruption. His vocals glide into the ether during ‘Prayer For Another Day’, before his imagination follows with ‘American Canyon Sutra’, a world of chattering voices reflected by a clever vocal mix. The quickfire recording process has led to by far his most consistent, and finest, record to date. McCombs still stands as the sole voice of reason amongst all the discord and disharmony.