Tom Carter put the finishing touches on his most recent full-length, Long Time Underground, after recovering from a severe illness that nearly led the guitarist to a similar resting place.

Tom Carter put the finishing touches on his most recent full-length, Long Time Underground, after recovering from a severe illness that nearly led the guitarist to a similar resting place.

"I was pretty close to death on at least one or two points," said Carter, 48, reached at home in New York City for an early November phone interview. "My fever was in the 104 degree range and not improving, and there were big questions whether I would pull out of it at all."

The musician, who visits the Summit for a solo concert on Monday, Nov. 16, initially checked into a German hospital in the midst of a 2012 tour with his band Charalambides believing he had contracted a nasty flu bug. Instead, he remained hospitalized in the intensive care unit for a biblical 40 days and 40 nights - most of which he spent in a medically induced coma as his body battled complications stemming from a severe case of pneumonia. After leaving the ICU, Carter logged another two weeks at a rehabilitation facility on the North Sea, where he worked to regain his strength so he could "walk more than a few hundred feet without having to sit down," as he explained it.

"I had a certain amount of anxiety as to whether I'd be able to play again, or be able to travel, but it quickly became obvious none of that was going to be a problem," Carter said. A few months after checking out of the rehab facility, the musician was back on tour, driven by a desire to return a sense of normalcy to his life.

Regardless, Carter admitted the illness has had a lingering effect on every aspect of his being, including his music, though he still struggles to pinpoint precisely how it's changed.

"One person told me he thought there was a certain sensitivity about [my guitar playing] now, and maybe more of a patience in a way. But that person was responding after seeing the first Charalambides show we played when I came out of the hospital," Carter said. "I was barely walking then, so playing an instrument was certainly different. I had to be a lot more - cautious isn't the right word, but a lot slower and more deliberate. And maybe some of that still comes out in the music."

The songs on Long Time Underground, which were recorded as single takes at Black Dirt Studio in upstate New York and feature no overdubs, are certainly patient. Several numbers clock in over 10 minutes in length, with the album-opening "August Is All" stretching on for nearly 22 hypnotic minutes.

"One of the things you learn when you're playing his material live is that if you rush through [the songs] and don't let them unfold gradually, you'll be 10 minutes into your set and you've already gone everywhere you want to go," Carter said. "In order for the narrative to have any dramatic tension you almost have to spread it out. You allow yourself to listen for where the sounds are going, and you follow them on down the road … rather than trying to steer things too much. I've always played this way; it's the quieting down of the side of me that's always trying to put things in order."

Roughly half the songs predate Carter's illness - the oldest number, "August Is All," originated in 2009 - with the rest taking shape throughout the recovery period. "Carvedilol Cowboy," for one, takes its title from a beta-blocker medication that has remained a steady part of the musician's post-pneumonia regimen and builds around a hazy, loosely psychedelic guitar riff that moves with the steadying hum of hospital machinery. Throughout the album, the music maintains a hallucinatory feel, with pretty guitar chords rising up only to melt into the backdrop, and one could almost imagine these sounds starting to take shape in Carter's brain in the earliest stages of his recovery, when his connection to reality was more tenuous.

"When they put you in a coma for septic shock, your brain recovers in a certain way, and it's accompanied by these crazy hallucinations, like I'd be sitting there watching words drift through the air written on pieces of smoke," he said. "It got worse at night. I would look at a bag casually tossed on the windowsill and it would look like a person lying there, so I felt like I was constantly surrounded by all these people lounging and striking weird poses and sort of blending in with the backdrop."

More than anything, however, the music's exploratory nature stems from the ongoing dialog between Carter and his guitar, which still feels full of boundless potential more than three decades after he first picked up the instrument as a teenager.

"I'm still able to surprise myself with the things I'm able to dig out of it," he said. "I've always thought of the guitar as a pretty limitless thing. It's just an amplified vibrating string, right? And yet this simple thing can sort of construct all these complex scenarios. It still feels infinite to me."

The Summit

9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16

2216 Summit St., Campus

ALSO PLAYING: Ryley Walker, Ryan Jewell, Dioses Serpientes Enroscados