Posts Tagged music
Big thanks to Chuck van Zyl for his review (original post here) and support! I’m looking forward to working with him in October, for performances at the Gatherings and on Star’s End Radio. As I’ve said many times, it’s the deep listeners like Chuck, who really hear and understand what I’m trying to accomplish musically, who make it worth all the effort to get music out there in a very crowded market.
“A soundtrack from out of the middle distance, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair (73’52”) uses stillness to superb effect. Eyes Cast Down (multi-instrumentalist Greg Moorcroft) asks that you give his delicately layered performance your patience. Once we adjust our ears to the minimalist arrangements, what emerges is a slow steady tempest of sound. The five stark compositions found on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair evoke different questions from the ones we are used to. We are asked to look within, and think about what feelings and sensations we experience while listening to this album’s sustaining drones, breathing chords, and dense forms – things large enough to swallow you whole. Whatever drama does arise on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, does not come from harmonic displacement, melodic invention, nor counterpoint, but from contrasts in the sounds themselves. Stripped of almost everything, but for the subtlest shifts in atmosphere and light, this work opens up a space for one. Moorcroft relies on a myriad of electronic processing devices to transform his guitar playing into the textural masses found on this album… and a learned musicianship to direct this technology. Beautifully restrained moments, borne in improvisation, extend in slowly decaying ripples beneath gradually undulating contours. Aural details come in and out of focus, in shades of twilight and sepulchral frost. As each tone breathes into our listening space, we feel a slow force of momentum. Near album’s end, a reverberant piano enters, repeating its question again and again. When shadows pull together, ethereal voices add to an enfolding darkness. The reason this album seems so quiet is because there are so few other people saying these things. The unadorned beauty of Souls Adrift, in Disrepair relates to human fragility. The dark alliance of unmodulated sounds imparts a haunting force. As ideas and emotions cross borders, the outside world remains an abstraction – possibly a parallel present to the loftier firmaments of the mind.”
Progressive rockers Yes’ 1974 release Relayer was one of the first albums that opened my ears to what was possible in music. Pretty difficult to overstate the importance of that – especially to an impressionable teenager.
This was in the mid-70s. I didn’t know anything about Yes and hadn’t heard a single note. I was fascinated by Roger Dean’s amazing cover and bought Relayer partly for that, and partly out of curiosity to learn what these guys were about. Of course, seeing only three song titles on the back cover really piqued my curiosity.
I was blown away at once, listened to Relayer many, many times, and naturally dove into the rest of the classic Yes catalog. On my commute this morning, I heard Relayer for the first time in at least 25 years, and was almost in tears of joy. I had never forgotten it; it was just one of those things that drift out of your life somehow…
Some of those things we come back to, and find that their attraction has been lost. Relayer has lost nothing for me over time; it’s still incredible.
Gates of Delirium is one of the handful of absolute Yes masterpieces. Epic in scope, prodigious in moods, brilliantly executed, with passages of intense power and sublime beauty. It has always blown me away. This is what music is supposed to do. I began to know it then, and that conviction has only grown over the years.
Sound Chaser has the strongest fusion elements and bears the largest stamp of Patrick Moraz’ input – though the band was already well down the fusion path, as composition and arrangement for Relayer was well underway before he came on board. The three-way interplay (not to say flat-out battle) between Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Moraz just explodes all through this track, and Howe’s solo section is a gem.
To Be Over closes on a more mellow note, slowing to a pastoral and dreamy – but somehow still well-grounded – vibe. It fully embodies the opening line “We go sailing down the calming stream.” Beautifully done.
This was Patrick Moraz’ only album with Yes. Rick Wakeman is surely Yes’ Keyboardist of Destiny, but it’s tantalizing to try to imagine where Yes would have gone if they’d stuck with Moraz for a few more albums. The possibilities were surely unlimited. The next album with Wakeman, 1977’s Going for the One, was definitely another masterpiece, but Moraz’ departure closed off a path of exciting possibilities.
Yes’ best work remains a huge influence on what I do, and I expect that to be heard in my work going forward. Thanks, guys!
Here is Richard’s full review, which can also be seen here:
Four years ago Chicago based Greg Moorcroft, the sole protagonist behind Eyes Cast Down, debuted with his album “The Separate Ones”, which I was fortunate to review several months later, in May 2013. In the meantime, during 2014, second solo album “Divinations” saw the light as well as collaborative recording “Memory Palace” with kindred soul Chris Russell. “Souls Adrift, In Disrepair”, the latest album by Eyes Cast Down, which is out since July 12th, 2016, was released by artist’s own Kalindi Music label and it’s packaged in a 4-panel digipak featuring stunningly immersing paintings by Royce Deans and Tali Farchi. This strongly enrapturing interaction was firstly born during a spontaneous, improvisational setting before premiering on a live art show in Chicago at April 1st, 2012. And four of five pieces presented on this album are connected to this multimedia jam.
Nearly 10-minute “Fading Angel” reveals layers of longing guitar drones, which drift, meander, reverberate, mesmerize… Introspective, smoothly sinuating passages distinguishably commingle with intricately high-pitched ear-tickling dissonant vistas. Although the mood might be rather minimal, hidden inside are lyrically enveloping nostalgic canvas, which masterfully amalgamate with the album’s visuals.
17-plus minutes long “Astral Drift” straightly dives into jaw-droppingly gargantuan depths, humming ultra deep drones briskly invade the scene and steal this magnificently transporting spectacle. A splendiferously dronescaping powerhouse is fully activated here!!! Ephemeral overtone-like groans sneak in here and there, but the magmatic flow is devastatingly adventurous and undeniably unlocks the gates of eargasmic transcendental Eden. Around 10th minute slightly relieving glimpse arise, but that’s just an “optical” illusion as the scenario quickly finds its tracks and resurrects all drone ghosts. Eerie ocarina calls arise as well and I am still swamped with ominously unfathomable drone walls. Even my weirdest expectations were surpassed with this composition, this is certainly Eyes Cast Down at its most exquisite, monolithic and desolate, a Drone Hall of Fame awaits!!! Enter now the Void!!!
The next piece, “Sirens Of Maya”, takes me back to earthier terrains sculpted with kaleidoscaping electric strings wizardry and painting thrillingly reflective and isochronally spiraling spellbinding images. As much rawly dazzling as harmoniously engrossing!
“Transcending Memory”, another longer track clocking to nearly 16-minute mark, maintains the deeply evocative route, where subtle monochromatic drone guards above, while relentlessly helixing desolations peculiarly bridge with poignantly magnifying, yet sinisterly traversing meridians. Aberrantly engulfing listening experience awaits here each devoted ears, this is obviously another epic composition superiorly exhibiting Greg Moorcroft’s extraordinary soundsculpting techniques. Bravo!!!
Transient pounding bass drum quite unexpectedly announces 18 minutes long “At This Body’s Final Hour”, which closes this highly astonishing journey. Mysteriously labyrinthine drifts are knottily counterpointed by poignant, yet evanescent piano patterns. Hallucinatory groans and voices are hanging above, interrupted occasionally by drum outbursts. Auxiliary female chorus (credited are Dasi, Greg’s wife, & Leyla) surreptitiously sneak in and numinously augment this ambiguously shapeshifting aural phenomenon. A grand finale indeed!!!
Greg Moorcroft, who mostly utilizes 6- and 12-string and fretless electric guitars, EBow as well as synths on this tour de force recording, has shown an enormous creativity and potential. This is a sensationally prodigious album, a truly triumphant 74-minute showcase of a challenging ingeniousness by its visionary force. I somehow can’t remember what my predictions were before exploring this album, but this doesn’t really matter, because as mentioned earlier, Greg Moorcroft has blew them all away with such glorious performance. A true gem, and still enormously hidden, among the most gifted pinnacles of 2016!!! Darker than the darkest, deeper than the deepest, hats off to Greg Moorcroft/Eyes Cast Down for this milestone, which must be encountered and applauded!!! A non-glass mastered format is the only limit here…
Regarding the latest updates, the next album by Eyes Cast Down is already recorded, it’s entitled “The White Island” and it should be out during the spring. The final mixing and artwork still has to be done. And last but not least, if you live near Philadelphia, mark in your calendar the date October 7th, 2017, because Eyes Cast Down will open for the iconic ambient guitar virtuoso Jeff Pearce at The Gatherings, which celebrates its 25th year. Then, after the concert, an hour live to air on Star’s End at WXPN Radio at the University of Pennsylvania will follow. Greg, you truly deserve such exposure!!! I really wish I could join…
2017 is off to a roaring good start!
In mid-January, I completed recording for my fifth album, The White Island. It’s all improvised guitar pieces, though I pushed the concept a little for the last piece to be recorded, The Eons Are Closing. (Coolness points if you recognize the phrase!) For this I recorded two spontaneous parts on each of 6- and 12-string guitars, the fretless with EBow, and electric mandolin with octave pedal, then arranged the parts jigsaw-puzzle style. A similar approach was used on Like a Riven Cloud and Mister God, This is Taylor.
The final mixing and artwork are all that remain to be done. I hope to release in the spring. Look for the album’s creation story soon.
Next in the recording queue is one of two classical cover pieces that I’m dying to record.
On the live performance front, I’ve been honored with an invitation to play two of North America’s most important venues in the electronic/atmospheric music world: The Gatherings Concert Series and Star’s End Radio, both located in Philadelphia.
The Gatherings celebrates its 25th year, and has hosted many of the world’s most important musicians in the field, including Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Erik Wøllo, Ian Boddy, Saul Stokes, and guitarist Jeff Pearce – one of my most important influences, for whom I will be opening. My set will be 30-40 minutes.
The concert takes place Sat. Oct. 7, 8:00 p.m., at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village, 3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104.
After the concert, I’ll relocate to WXPN Radio at the University of Pennsylvania, to play an hour live to air on Star’s End, currently in its 40th year, which airs from 1:00 – 6:00 a.m. Star’s End cited my albums The Separate Ones and Souls Adrift, in Disrepair as Significant Releases for 2013 and 2016 respectively.
I hope to see you there! More news to come very soon, as the ripple effects from this invitation are considerable…
2016 was largely the Year of Other People’s Music, as almost everything I worked on was either a cover piece or collaborative project.
The only solo piece I worked on in ‘16 – on New Year’s Day – was a take on an idea that has since been composed for a collaborative album. This improvised fretless/EBow whirlwind, The Four Directions Seemed Aflame, will be on the upcoming guitar improv album, The White Island, which is nearly finished and should be the next release.
In 2016, I also wrote guitar parts for two pieces, intended for a duo album with one my favorite musicians, and recorded one of them. That project is still in its infancy.
During the late summer 2015 studio frenzy, I recorded a 20-minute piece for a singer with whom I have long dreamed of working. So, one of my greatest joys of 2016 was receiving the recording of her stellar performance. She utterly nailed it. Pieces such as Like a Riven Cloud and Fading Angel will give you an idea of emotional power in this one. It’s going to close out…. probably Album 8, for which nothing else has been done yet. So that is probably two years away. It will wring out your heart, I can promise.
At my 2015 Sulzer Library concert, I played a 12-string solo version of the Enya piece Sumiregusa. I sent the recording to a musician friend and fellow Enya fan, who loved it. Toward the end of ‘16, I was delighted to receive her invitation to arrange and record 12-string parts for two pieces from her new album. Each is a rich synth/voice drone, around 15 minutes long. I’ve done my parts for one of them, and expect to the other to be done soon.
This will be the second album on which I’ve played a guest role, and I have another invitation to record some drumming for a friend’s album. This material may be used more-or-less as is, or mangled beyond recognition, or both. That recording is expected to happen in January – a good way to start the year.
While I’m not optimistic about the Enya piece ever being released, I have much higher hopes for my arrangement of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, which is a recording priority for 2017. I first arranged this in 2010, working from the composer’s string quartet version, but this was impossible to arrange properly for one guitar. Luckily, I discovered that the original strings-and-percussion score works easily.
My arrangement for electric guitar and sampled percussion is straight off the score, but I play it much more slowly, and it occupies a huge space. I can’t wait to play this one live…
Thanks for reading, and all the best for 2017!
It’s been too long since my album reviewing days and, while I lack sufficient time for the serious repeat listening which a good review requires, I can at least get back into the practice of calling attention to some of my favorite fellow artists in the Ambient-Atmospheric field.
Lily Pond Orchestra was the name of Douglas Lee’s synth-driven ambient project, which can best be described as orchestral, both in its sonic texture and its compositional ambition.
Douglas was part of the Relaxed Machinery community in its years on the Ning platform, and anyone who had the pleasure of chatting with him can confirm that he was one of the nicest souls you could hope to meet. A real gentleman. We lost him, far too soon, a few years ago, but he left a rich musical legacy which is to be treasured.
Douglas’ final three albums, Tabernacle, Beautiful Day, and Suite for New England could be considered the apex of his work. They are all available from the highly-respected Earth Mantra netlabel, which also has a Bandcamp page for new releases since its 2015 restart. Shout-outs to founder Darrell Burgan and to Geoff Small, who took up leadership of the label in 2015.
Douglas’ impressive discography also includes over 30 other albums and many renditions of classical compositions but, sadly, very little of this is available any longer.There are a few albums available at CD Baby, and a handful of tracks at SoundCloud and MySpace.
However, the three albums mentioned above, by themselves, constitute an impressive body of work. I consider them essential listening, and hope you will find them enjoyable, as many of us do.
Thank you, Douglas!
As with all the arts – and sciences too – I think, one’s tastes and allegiances can – should – evolve over time. We may fanatically adhere to one musician, writer or artist above all in our youth then, in maturity, wonder what possessed us.
I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter some of the world’s greatest writers. Victor Hugo was the lion of my youth, and I still read him occasionally. I might have one more go at Les Miserables, which I’ve read six times. His lesser-known novels Toilers of the Sea and Ninety-Three are terrific page-turners with Hugo’s signature heart-stopping personal and moral dilemmas, and I really should pick up Notre-Dame de Paris once more.
Note that latter title: Wikipedia notwithstanding, it’s not The Hunchback of Notre-Dame; it never was. Quasimodo – as great and noble a character as he is – is not the title character of the novel; the cathedral is. Reading a good unabridged translation makes that clear enough.
Hugo’s irresistible romantic drive stoked my occasionally reckless and misspent youth (or what I like to imagine was), such as when I walked away from a final aimless year at university to undertake the rock musician vision quest. I still remember sitting in a large park in small-town Southern Ontario, being moved to tears by reading of Cosette’s thought, “Perhaps he is my mother, too, this man.”
Of all the writers I’ve encountered, however, the one who resonates with me the most now is Yasunari Kawabata, Japan’s first Nobel Laureate.
Kawabata-san famously said that, after Japan’s defeat in the war, he would only write elegies (although that was arguably no change from his prior work). All of his novels which I’ve had the fortune to read in translation certainly fit that category.
The journey began 24 years ago, when I read The Master of Go for the first time. The elegy ethos – and the tension between the classic and modern Japanese cultures – is perhaps at its sharpest in this story, which is built upon Kawabata’s reporting of a famous 1938 match between a legendary old master and the best of the younger, modern generation of players. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Kawabata cited The Master of Go as his favorite among his works (and the only one which he regarded as finished).
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, from the late 8th century until 1869, a year after the Meiji Imperial Restoration, when Tokyo became the capital.
Kawabata’s exquisite descriptions of natural scenes, Kyoto’s numerous religious festivals, and the city itself are sufficient to recommend The Old Capital, but what makes this gem really glow is the masterful, understated portrayal of character and relationship. Little is said; much more is left unsaid. As a molecule is mostly empty space, Kawabata’s meaning is found mostly between the written lines. I don’t claim to understand very much of what he’s getting at, so far; as with any subtle art, understanding comes with practice.
Kawabata-san’s influence must inevitably drift into the music, and so it has, from the beginning of the eyes cast down project. It’s most notable in the elegy pieces Like a Riven Cloud, At This Body’s Final Hour, Transitional and Mister God, This is Taylor, as well as an album in progress about which it’s too early to speak. As I wrote in the story of the Souls Adrift, in Disrepair album:
“For me it sums up the material world, with us struggling our way through it. Fish out of water. A suitable continuation of themes ruminated upon in the Separate Ones album…” In a sense, as far as this world is concerned, I can only write elegies, too, because this temporary, chaotic ball of matter, birth and death is not our home.