With this, his fifth album, sorrowful American balladeer Richard Buckner returns to the kind of awkward sounds he collated on his third, 1998's Since. That was a somewhat misguided, rocked-out outing in which he invited along a whole bunch of disparate folk (including Chicago music mafioso types John McEntire and David Grubbs) to try and "get The Eagles" out of his music. After making a detour into bleak-country terrain on his infuriating sequenced-as-one-track concept record The Hill in 2000, here Buckner again tries to fashion some kind of individualist music, trying his best to make a modern songwriter's record, one not beholden to the forms of the past. This time, though, Buckner isn't looking to outside influences to try and help him turn his back on the tonal fidelities of country music. With Impasse, he makes his debut as multi-instrumentalist, playing everything on the record besides drums, from steel guitar through synth keyboard. In this, the record has a kind of ad-hoc feel. The songwriter's not afraid to throw together incongruous sounds, as on "...& The Clouds've Lied," which alternates between pretty passages of finger-picked acoustic guitar and its verse/chorus base of shitty-sounding distorted guitar, upon which Buckner lays liberal dabs of golden vibraphone and sinuous slide. On "Hoping Wishers Never Lose," he "builds" a really dense structure of shuffling percussion and multitracked guitar, before thinning things out in the song's rudimentary "chorus" with drum loops, modular keytone, and what sound like optigan drones. The song sounds similar to what Josh Rouse did on his last disc Under Cold Blue Stars, if not as effective. In its awkward ways, the effect of the whole album is often ineffective. Like Mark Eitzel, who turned a similar overworked turn with his own one-man-band effort, The Invisible Man, Buckner is guilty of making the songs on this record far too dense. Like Eitzel, Buckner is at his best when such accoutrements are stripped away, and his ragged, forlorn, so-lonesome-I-could-cry voice is left front-and-center, able to communicate all his weary emotion from an uncluttered stage.