Courtesy photo

Ben Guihan’s album 'Mise-en-scène' releases digitally on Friday, Dec. 10.

Ben Guihan’s “Raining in Madrid” opens in the night sky, a synthesizer warbling the intro, eerie and with a perfect UFO feel. The slow strumming of guitar follows as smooth as a boat on still waters. The surreal folk artist sings: “Get in,” she said to the stranger. “I’ll row you past the stars.” And off we — Guihan, the lady protagonist, her hitchhiker and the listeners — go, journeying into the “land of shadows” with its “tombstone” telephones and questionless unknowns and a tale of an old love with “voodoo hands” who was all “miracles and nightmares.” The lyrical vessel rolls into the deep propelled by the soft twinkle of an old-school Marxophone. 

It’s a visual song — like sonically swimming through a painting — as are the rest of the tracks on Guihan’s album, Mise-en-scène, releasing on Dec. 10 across streaming platforms and limited vinyl (available on Guihan’s website and in Taos at Heads Up Music). The record release show will be on Dec. 17 and Lun + Ojo gallery.

“I was always drawing in sketchbooks when I was young, but I started to want to draw moving pictures. Not cartoons, but something with more motion than a static painting,” says the Vermont-native who started busking around Cambridge and Harvard Square after attending acting school where he learned he didn’t want to be an actor. 

The now-32-year-old, Taos-based artist — who also makes huge, pop-art style paintings, bringing color to characters from silent films — often pulls images from his prose writing aka “poetic gobbledygook.” Lines like: “As the sound of the thunder meets the silence of the room / where the clock has long run down though it’s still well after noon” (from airy and languid “Portrait in A”) and “The black cat meowing and that highway howling and the sun going down like a thief getting out of town” (from twanging “Red Sun Sinking”). The poet is inspired by other poets, like Oscar Wilde’s crystalline precision and the Beatnik’s loose stream-of-consciousness. Musically, literary lyricists like Bob Dylan, Bert Josch, Paul Simon and newer-on-the-scene-but-with-a-timeless-sound, Sierra Ferrell, excite Guihan.

Though the curly-headed, mustached, and primo-stylin’-in-vintage-scarves-and-suits musician normally plays solo sets at coffeehouses, the upcoming album has a full sound, thanks to the folks at Dirt Floor Record Productions in New England. “The way we recorded it, I played as I would play a show — in classic troubadour style with my voice, guitar and harmonica,” says Guihan. “Then everything was built around the base of that.” 

He thinks of the song “Goodbye Los Angeles.” Guihan wrote the chorus while living in the little truck camper-cabin he and his now-wife built a few years back. “But then the song sat on the shelf because there was nothing really behind it,” he says. Once the couple traveled through the southwest and along the west coast into L.A. playing shows, Guihan absorbing the essence of the city, he finalized the song. It’s a sprawling country farewell to Hollywood and learning scenes and reciting verses and movie star love. “The picture is over, but I still remain,” Guihan sings with a resonance of breaking free and rolling on.

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