On Pierre Bensusan’s Alti-planos, his second album for Favored Nations, a label mostly known for its shameless electric guitar pyrotechnics, the French acoustic guitar hero offers a graceful unplugged alternative. Never mind that the set opens with the lovely lyrical piece “Sentimentales Pyromaniaques.” This time out Bensusan takes a different tack than on his 2001 CD, Intuite, a more purely solo acoustic venture. On “Sur un Fil” and “Sylva,” he dips into multitracking layers, with loops and percussive effects adding up to an atmospheric attitude.
Elsewhere, he adds his warm, understated singing voice, as on “La Nuit des Meteores,” originally an instrumental from his 1987 CBS Masterworks debut, and on “Demain, des L’Aube,” set to a text from Victor Hugo. Singing and whistling perk up the medley called “Falafel a Montsegur.”
Despite the occasional deviations from the standard man-and-his-acoustic-guitar format, it is his guitar work that most impresses. Although playing in the open DADGAD tuning, Bensusan pushes into more venturesome harmonic terrain than many open-tuning players. On his latest, Bensusan fulfills expectations, coaxing from his guitar a beautiful sound, full of rippling and ringing tones, while also flexing a higher degree of all-over musicality than many in the acoustic guitar universe.