Nov 19, 2012
Electronic keyboard artist Bryan Carrigan apparently is out to master as many subgenres of contemporary electronic music as there currently exists. On focus, he went after world fusion and on passing lights, he aimed for chill-out and electronica. Here, on windows, Carrigan explores that netherworld where ambient and electronic new age intersect and coalesce. The result is a true revelation – an album that features rhythms but rhythms which are created not by beats but by the use of tones and melodic sounds as rhythmic elements unto themselves. It makes for a fascinating exploration of the fusion of melodic ambient/space/new age music with rhythmic elements composed of tones, pulses, and other interesting ways of introducing a "beat" into a song without relying on overt percussion or drums. In Bryan's own words (from an email he sent to me), "..there are lots of tracks that have..tuned metal percussion and lots of manipulated metallic mallet instruments that do tend to sound a lot like gamelan. I use a lot of these low dark metallic instruments for ambience and to create rhythm and pulses on this album for when I need to give it some movement instead of relying on loops and drum beats which mask all the interesting sounds beneath. There are also several tracks with bowed metallic sounds for ambient texture and leads." I included this quote because it better describes the overall "oomph" of the music better than I ever could.
windows is bookended by two tracks that fit more or less into the pure ambient/spacemusic genres as any conspicuous sense of rhythm is absent. into light opens the album with assorted waves and drones and washes of sound blending together in classic spacemusic fashion. Retro synth chords (organ-like in nature) hold center stage while whooshing effects and occasional semi-asynchronous bell tones fill out the sound field. The overall effect is of a vast expanse or a broad vista, a common evocation for spacemusic. The closing track is solace and it is even more ambient in execution and feel. Minimal bell/chime tones open the 13+ minute track (twice as long as anything else on the CD). Carrigan slowly introduces other sonic components, such as shape-shifting melodic elements and echoing tones (I was reminded somewhat of Kit Watkins' Thought Tones Volume 1). The drama of the piece builds to a peak midway (the introduction of what sounds like people speaking is an interesting wrinkle) and then winds down again. The cut is a great execution of drifting formless ambience, yet using less drone and texture and more tone and sparse melody for execution.
That brings us to the core of windows, tracks 2 through 9, where I think the true brilliance of the album is best exemplified. seventh stone is a gamelan-influenced piece that has a bright airiness to it, reminiscent of several tracks on Robert Rich's Rainforest album. One can't help but be impressed with how Carrigan so effortlessly blends all his various elements together into a cohesive whole. The mood here is both jubilant but also mysterious. morning's gift is even more ebullient, featuring sampled harp, hang drum, bowed metallic synth and an orchestral string section (!). passages is more ambient in nature, with waves of all-enveloping retro synths. At the halfway point, bell tones emerge adding a shimmering sensation. fields of poppy re-introduces gamelan influences, even more pronounced than previously, and this time I was reminded of the album Bali from the group Jalan Jalan (an overlooked masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned). Carrigan mixes the gamelan sounds with retro-futuristic synth elements and the combination is a winner through and through – iridescent and sprightly in the best sense of the words.
I could go on describing every track on windows in detail – and each one deserves that level of attention – but suffice it to say that over the course of just three albums, Bryan Carrigan has established himself as an electronic music maestro and someone of substantial importance to follow for any fan of the genre who wants to stay ahead of the curve. When I look back at his triptych of focus, passing lights, and windows, I'm more than a little startled that a seemingly unknown (who apparently has been toiling behind the scenes helping many others succeed all these years) is already at the quality level he has achieved. Where has Bryan Carrigan been all this time? Well, wherever he has been, he is here now and that is very good news for lovers of electronic keyboard music. I can't even limit him to any one genre, because it would seem that Carrigan can pretty much conquer 'em all. What's he going to take on next? We can only wait and see.
Rating: Very Good +
-reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 11/19/12
view review here: Zone Music Reporter