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    Album review | SOUL

    Willis Earl Beal, ‘Experiments in Time’

    In hindsight, Willis Earl Beal clearly wasn’t cut out for the limelight. When XL Recordings/Hot Charity, his former label, assembled his home recordings for his 2012 debut, “Acousmatic Sorcery,” it made Beal a cult hero with a back story as an outsider artist, until he inevitably chafed at mainstream pressures. Beal returns to his independent roots on his startling new album, which he will self-release through the website CD Baby on Aug. 8. “Experiments in Time” is a slow burn, replacing the lo-fi grit and distortion of his earlier work with a deep, resonant palate of mostly guitar, some slack bass, and the soft hum of electronics. It’s a vehicle for Beal’s voice, putting him in the realm of cosmic soul and jazz singers such as Terry Callier and Andy Bey. These bare incantations — dealing with love, disillusionment, identity — unfurl with a hymnlike beauty. A song like “Traveling Eyes,” with Beal dipping into his glorious falsetto, lets him explore the full panorama of his powers. When the album finished, I immediately wanted to hear it again. And then again. (Out Friday) JAMES REED

    ESSENTIAL “Traveling Eyes”