Jul 6, 2013
Once again, I was fortunate enough to master the new album from Raygun Ballet, "Big California" Click on the image and Track 13 streams the entire 65 minute ambient chill out treat!
"Our road trip through the land of giant donuts, muffler men and magic kingdoms has finally been released! In the shadows of old Route 66 gas stations and the faded glory of shuttered Salton Sea motels we found there’s still gold in the Golden State."
Feb 10, 2013
Feb 1, 2013
Windows By Bryan Carrigan
Label:Peonies Music Released 10/1/2012
Return of the Zing
For the past several years I have been complaining about the lack of great electronic music coming to the genre. Well, my voice was heard and it is especially true with the advent of Bryan Carrigan's new album Windows. Carrigan has brought back that high degree of ambient Electronica that cannot be manufactured in a cheap basement setup or on a laptop computer. This is electronic wizardry of the highest caliber that is layered, blended, sampled, deconstructed, and reconstructed. His compositions have recognizable story lines and not just a lot of somnambulate droning (apologies to you minimalists out there). Windows is ten tracks of electronic music that have simple nouns for titles, but they have the most intricate melodies, riffs, and narratives. What does Bryan see outside his "windows"? Family, fun and the future perhaps? Let us look and see...or hear.
The principal view Bryan has in all his music is the vision of light. Yes, it appears that you can transmute light into sound. Into the Light, the opening tune suggests an eerie beginning to the day. The soft, golden glow of the morning gives a fresh start to each day. We follow the light and find ourselves drawn into a circuitous path. The tune has no heat however, for it is a cool light we are following. The music has a great deal of spirit and that is our guide.
Somewhere, some when, there is a powerful shaman and he promises to reveal all to you if the challenge is met. You must, under all circumstances, discover the Seventh Stone and all its secrets. The background soundscape to this mystical journey is courtesy of Mr. Carrigan. Bryan's music promises deep, dark caverns, labyrinthine passages and just perhaps, a pair of beautiful, smoldering eyes to impress. There be treasure out there and it may not be all that glitters.
The tune Masquerade opens with a quivering reverberation as if the sound blinks on and off. The tune becomes very mysterious and eventually, an electronic waltz of intrigue. The music gyrates, twists, and turns to deceive and cajole. I think there is something hidden here, subliminal. That is what draws me to the tune as a favorite.
Whenever I think of Fields of Poppies I cannot help but visualize a certain scene in the Wizard of Oz. As far as the eye can see there is beauty in the landscape. We tend to forget there is magic there as well. Sometimes good, sometimes not so, but the experience will be exciting no matter what. Bryan's tune has that magic that delights the aural senses.
Solace is what I imagine the "music of the spheres" might sound like. It has a moderate vibrato that is very soothing. It is something that may be heard when we find the next dimension. The thirteen minute track has an odd rhythm, neither flowing, nor faltering, but more pendulous, like some otherworldly bell. It reminded me of a gentle gamelan. The melody is nomadic, wandering in your mind, sometimes leading and sometimes following. Listening closely you can hear voices in the background. Children? Or perhaps it was just in my own mind. In any case, the song lets me take full advantage of my imagination.
Bryan Carrigan seems to have the Midas touch in the music industry, garnering accolades on many of the albums he engineers or for music he programs, including one of my favorites, Will Ackerman's Hearing Voices. His presence is available on over one hundred albums, but his last three, Passing Lights, Focus and Windows, his own unique electronic works are what make him notable in the genre. Thanks for keeping the music alive, Bryan.
Rating: Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 2/1/2013
RJ Lannan is a writer and independant reviewer at Zone Music Reporter.
Dec 24, 2012
You’ve probably heard Bryan Carrigan’s work many times in the past but have been unaware that you were listening to something that he had helped to produce or engineer. Bryan is one of those people who work behind the scenes to make great music sound even better. With job titles such as music producer, engineer, music editor, programming and sound design it might be understandable that you didn’t know of Bryan’s involvement in the soundtrack of one of your favorite movies or one of those television shows that you watch all the time but nevertheless he was there. And while this is Bryan’s bread and butter so to speak in terms of a day job he has also been working on music that is more personal to him and for which he is totally responsible. And I mean that in the most literal way since Bryan composed, performed, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album. While Bryan is very proud of what he has done in the studio for other musicians, composers and artists I suspect that he is a lot more proud of the material that he is putting out under his own name as an electronic musician.
To date Bryan has put out three albums under his own name including Passing Lights (2011), Focus (2011) and his latest album called Windows (2012). Since I have not listened to his first two releases I won’t be doing any comparisons in this review but if the other two were anything like Windows in terms of quality and musicianship then I’m sure you wouldn’t go wrong in checking them out after you have had a chance to allow Windows to soak in. In my own experience in listening to music it has been educational to start with the latest release and then work my way back through the artist’s catalog because it gives me a sense of how they have grown as a musician with each subsequent release. After having spent some quality time with Windows I am already looking forward to listening to Focus and then Passing Lights as well to get a good sense of Bryan’s progression with his composing and performing.
Windows consists of 10 tracks that all work together very well to create an atmosphere of peace that flows from composition to composition. The music covers quite a bit of ground in terms of style but none of it disrupts the flow that starts on track one and moves steadily through to the very end. Most of the tracks on this album are right around 5 or 6 minutes with a couple of songs that lean heavily towards the spacey end of electronic music and those songs stretch out to 7 and 13 minutes. All of the songs are more than long enough for Bryan to create soundscapes that draw the listener into his sonic worlds and invites them to spend some time contemplating the musical tapestry that he is weaving just for them. Even a track like Seventh Stone which is a lot more reminiscent of world music and does have a beat to it still falls into line with the overall feeling of the album which is one of tranquility and relaxation. Bryan’s production skills are evident in that he can harmonize these tracks into a thematic whole even though they are not all cut from the same cloth.
In fact it is this very variety that tends to make me appreciate the album that much more. As long as an artist is able to keep from jarring me with sharp turns in song choices as the album progresses I am usually on board with having the music that I am listening to offer me a landscape that is varied and interesting. And that is exactly what Bryan has accomplished on Windows. One of my personal favorites on the album is a song entitled Fields of Poppy which starts off with the sound of Bali bells and of electronic bird calls floating and echoing in the background. Bryan starts with that simple palette and continues to add layer upon layer of instrumentation on top of it all while maintaining the subtle yet rich base from which it began. You end up with a composition that is wonderfully expressive and evokes in the listener images of far off and exotic cultures. While I am sure that Bryan spent much time creating this landscape of sound it seems to happen so effortlessly on the album that many of us might forget the skill that is needed to create this soundstage and deliver it to the listener.
It is difficult to pick anything as a favorite off of this album because each song appeals to the listener in a different way but I enjoyed the opening track called Into Light which launches the album with its gentle synth washes that bring to mind the vastness of space with its ebb and flow of energy stretching out across light years of distance and time. Another favorite off of this album is a track called Masquerade. A sequencer driven piece that is wonderfully programmed and delivers a pulsing, rhythmic feel while never losing the sense of where the album is headed.
I’m sure that most ambient/new age/electronic music fans will find something to like about this album and once you have absorbed the particular songs that first attracted you to the project I would invite you to listen to the other compositions on this album and I’m sure you will find yourself agreeing that Windows’ diversity is not a distraction but the very thing that makes this album something you will listen to again and again. Windows is a sonic delight and I’m sure it will be in my rotation for many months to come.
Definitely recommended by Ambient Visions.
see review here: Windows review
click here for this review and many other great reviews: www.ambientvisions.com
Dec 15, 2012
Nov 30, 2012
Bryan Carrigan Washes Electronic Windows.
November 30, 2012
Bryan Carrigan Completes a Trilogy of Electronic CDs with Windows.
Bryan Carrigan has been a journeyman musician, working behind the scenes on Hollywood films. but in 2011, he began releasing his own music and he’s put out three CDs in the last year of his inventive and often ebullient compositions. But towards the end of 2012, he put out a CD called Windows that takes him in a more Ambient direction.
It wasn’t until he hit 42 in 2011 that Bryan Carrigan released his first solo album, Passing Lights. But before the shrink wrap came off that one he put out a second CD, Focus. Each disc had a different kind of effervescent electronic music. Toward the end of 2012, Bryan Carrigan released his third CD in a year and it went in a completely different direction.
“I wanted to step away from the loops and the beats and do something a little different,” says the Carrigan from his home studio in Southern California. “I’ve always wanted to do do something in an ambient direction. I wanted to make sort of like an headphone album, you know, one of these albums you could hear multiple times and always catch something new on each listen. And I’ve always really liked ambient music.
The album is called Windows and although Carrigan was influenced by Ambient music, there was another sound that came into play.
“I tried to walk this fine line between ambient and new age,” he confesses. “And what I found out was it was really hard to do.”
You don’t find too many musicians admitting to a fondness for New Age music.
“I’m embracing it, yeah, why not?” he says with laughing defiance. “There seems to be some kind of negative connotations with the term, but I wanted to show a softer side, a little more sense of melody.”
You can hear Bryan Carrigan’s interview and his beautiful ambient music in the Echoes Podcast.
Listen to interview on Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/echoes-feature-bryan-carrigan/id77320816?i=125458949
Windows makes the Echoes November Top 25: http://echoesblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/echoes-november-top-25-jeff-johnson-phil-keaggy-watersky/
Nov 24, 2012
BRYAN CARRIGAN Windows CD/DIGITAL DOWNLOAD,
Peonies Music, 2012
For his third album "Windows", accomplished composer Bryan Carrigan wanted to step away from the loops, rhythms and beats as mostly heard on his previous two releases, and instead venture into more of an ambient direction.
The 60-minute outcome is what Mr Carrigan likes refers to as "eclectic adventures of ambient and worldly soundscapes", and again doesn’t disappoint at all. Besides carefully walking the fine line of ambient and New Age, the inviting and more reflective-oriented ambiences have a nice soft (or should I saw intimate) touch, leaving room for unhurried, gently unfolding spaces, fluid melody and occasional sequencer patterns. "The Morning's Gift" and "Fields of Poppy" are good examples of this approach along the smooth cascading elements making up "Horizon".
Then again, there’s the soft glowing sparkle shimmering nicely through each of the ten tracks, adding an extra layer and dimension to the pastoral-oriented music. Open up, breath the fresh air and feel the gentle breeze as each piece presents itself in a simple and honest manner. The release rounds out with two longer compositions, of which the 13-minute "Solace"bears a certain Zen-like, elevating and cleansing quality.
All in all, "Windows" is well-crafted contemporary electronic music firmly rooted in the here and now, revealing a more up close and personal side of Bryan Carrigan. Website: www.bryancarrigan.com
see review here: http://www.sonicimmersion.org/review.php?letter=C&review=72583
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
Nov 18, 2012
Bryan Carrigan: Windows
NOVEMBER 18, 2012
Both easy on the ear and pleasingly deep, Windows, the third release from Bryan Carrigan, works its way through classic electronic forms, New Age spaces, and moments of world-infused grooves. This is a great set of pieces, loaded with charm and familiar goodness, and every switch in style is nicely handled. Carrigan can float a track like “Pendulum,” which is sure to please spacemusic fans with its bouncing, pizzicato sequencer beat and quiet underlying melody, and can also ably pull off “Morning’s Gift,” with its sounds of dulcimer and strings, a piece that adds percussion and smooth bass to turn it into a charming, upbeat piece that will just make your soul happy. There’s a great strength in the diversity here. “Passages” is an energetic ambient-side piece that offers up big and airy pads describing an arc across stellar distances, flecked by sparkling electronic light. “Masquerade” ties together lightly glitched beats and glittering sequencer lines. I love the barely reined in kinetic energy here and the very subtle layering of sounds. “First Steps” is the shortest piece here, a playful song with guitar, pinging keys and gliding string accompaniment. Perfectly captures its theme, and happens to make me smile.
Windows has had its share of looped, extended listens over here, and not just because I was reviewing it. It’s the kind of disc that makes me want to hear it again, and when it’s been floating along in a shuffle, its variety of sounds has caught me by surprise–which is to say, something catches my ear, I check the iPod, and lo and behold, it’s Carrigan again, showing me another side of his ample talent. Now’s the time to get familiar with Bryan Carrigan’s music. He’s only three discs in, and the first two have been very well received in the ambient/electronic community, garnering a lot of praise from reviewers. (You can read my esteemed colleague Bill Binkelman’s review of "Passing Lights" at Wind and Wire.) I know I’ll be following him.
Nov 17, 2012
WindowsBryan Carrigan2012 / Peonies Music59.9 minutes
Windows is electronic artist Bryan Carrigan’s third album to date and a first for me. Carrigan has been involved in a multitude of award-winning recordings and film scores as well as his own music. He is also known for multiple roles in the recording studio as music editor, programmer, and sound designer. In 2011, Carrigan was a co-producer, co-writer, and engineer on Zone Music Reporter’s Music Awards’ Album of the Year, Surrender by Jeff Oster. On Windows, Carrigan did all of the composing, performing, production, recording, mixing, and mastering, so this is truly a solo project! The music itself is more ambient than melodic, sometimes ethereal and sometimes earthy, sometimes rhythmic and sometimes atmospheric. It is very easy to listen to while working or driving, yet is fascinating to listen to with full attention. The ten tracks range from 2 1/2 minutes to over 13 minutes, giving the ears and mind a varied musical exploration that flows seamlessly.
“Into the Light” begins our journey with a dark and mysterious piece of space music that brightens as it evolves. Despite the feeling of vast and endless darkness, there is also the suggestion of peaceful, effortless floating that is very soothing. “Seventh Stone” picks up the energy level with a catchy rhythm played behind slower, more dramatic atmospheric sounds. I really like this one. “Morning’s Gift” is a favorite. Light and joyful, the swirling keyboard sounds dancing over gentle percussion is intoxicating. “Masquerade” is a fascinating combination of floating ambient sounds with an energetic rhythm that never stops moving. “Fields of Poppy” has a simple melody played on chimes with birds singing in the background. As the piece develops, more electronic instruments enter, creating a multi-layered ode to joy and beauty. “Horizon” takes us back to the feeling of deep space, this time with more urgency and intensity but no sense of danger or threat - I like this one a lot, too. My favorite track is “Pendulum,” which goes much darker and more mysterious. Also very intense and visual, this would be great in a film score in a scene where the director wants you on the edge of your seat! “Solace” concludes the album with 13+ minutes of slowly-floating space exploration that’s very relaxed and peaceful.
Windows is a great choice for fans of electronic and ambient music as well as for people who want to explore this genre a bit! It is available from www.bryancarrigan.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
Nov 9, 2012
Peonies Music (2011)
Electronic keyboardist/synthesist/rhythm programming expert Bryan Carrigan is garnering a reputation for crafting great electronic music – well-layered,flawlessly produced and engineered and laden with abundant hooks and infectious beats so that the tunes are damn near irresistible. I reviewed focus, his world-beat infused electronica release, for Zone Music Reporter. passing lights takes Carrigan's music into a more overt EM landscape, seamlessly meshing elements of chill-out, synth-pop, dub, rhythmic ambient, and retro EM into another tasty assemblage of ear candy. passing lights is custom-tailored to be driving music (hence its title, I'd wager), especially late night urban excursions along neon-lit city boulevards, although it could certainly make rural highway drives a pleasant occasion as well.
"balloons" kicks the CD off in fine fashion with echoed blips over a bed of retro buzzing textures, frenetic beats, thumping bass, and finger-snap accompaniment, all of which come before the lead melody emerges - a dramatic, soaring keyboard line that evokes travelling at high speeds. "the flickering" opens with shadowy, warbling noises, but soon becomes a bass-heavy snare/high hat dub-esque affair, meriting comparison to all those classic Waveform "A.D." releases from way-back-when. "shades" features shimmering tones of different types and pitches against a backdrop of downtempo thumping bass beats and shuffling rhythmic textures. "ten times two" lightens the mood and introduces subtle world music flavors via wooden flute and tuned metal percussion, but again a heavy bass beat anchors the music solidly in the electronic genre, which only intensifies when the lead synth line is introduced. The mood is somewhat melancholic, if, that is, energetic, driving beats can ever be said to be melancholic. It's a unique wrinkle, one that Carrigan delves into now and then.
"centipede" carries a hint of Asian or Indian spice, once again via sampled ethnic instruments as well as how the melody is crafted, while "you me equals we" revisits some of the same sonic elements first heard on "the flickering" but twisting them into something new nonetheless. Dub rears its head on the midtempo beat-fest "destination now" but it's dub spiced up with some world music touches that sound either North African or Middle Eastern to my ears, as if it this music could be heard at a cyber café located in a desert village town square. "drive home" dials down the beats to a slower tempo and heads into a jazzy vein with a swirling muted trumpet line along with what sounds like a Fender Rhodes electric piano (tweaked a bit, though). There are two more tracks still to come - the frenetic quasi-Berlin styled "hidden spaces" (which reminds me of Can Atilla's albumOmni) and the sparse non-rhythmic closer, "beginnings" (interesting title for the last track!) - a drifting, ambient piano number, accented with swelling electronic drones and textures underneath the echoed piano notes. Being the only cut without beats, it's as if the artist is saying "Here, finally, is some time to catch your breath." It's an appropriately quiet, subdued ending to an album that revs the listener up and takes him/her on a ride across a rhythmic expanse of musical marvels.
As I write this review, I am also poised to write my review of Carrigan's brand new release,windows, which sees this talented electronic music artist head in yet another distinctly different direction, that being a merging of electronic-based new age and ambient music. It seems that Bryan Carrigan's bag of tricks is like Hermione Granger's handbag - bottomless and filled with wondrous items.
Oct 2, 2012
New Artist: Bryan Carrigan
Posted on October 2, 2012
Amongst all the cold-call music submissions we get, perhaps only 10% are within the realm of what we want OEM Radio to sound like. I have a particular fondness for straight-ahead downtempo music with lavish melodies built on top of driving rhythm sections. I call it the Kruder and/or Dorfmeister effect. This chap Bryan Carrigan sent in two albums chock full of downtempo that hit the mark.
Bryan Carrigan – Focus
The first of his two releases, Focus really puts Carrigan’s attention to melody on display. Several tracks have heavy driving rhythm tracks, especially Catalyst andCricket Crossing. The best track is perhaps Tzatziki, a decidedly tabla and bass driven song with strings both plucked and bowed. Enjoy a very pretty song from this album: Summit
Bryan Carrigan – Passing Lights
This is the stronger of the two albums, with the lush instrumentation firmly meshed with the rhythm sections. The bass lines really come through and drive the songs. We really dug this album. One song I want to point out specifically is The Drive Home, which really sounds like something from DJ Krush & Toshinori Kondo’s Ki-okualbum, with its moody muted trumpet flowing over lo-fi’d slow beats. You can listen to the whole record on SoundCloud.
Alternatively, there’s a few youtube entries from his upcoming album Windows, which we don’t have yet. (We all have iMacs, anyways).
Oct 1, 2012
Sep 19, 2012
The 34-minute "Focus" is the second release by US-synthesist Bryan Carrigan, and almost seems an Ep to me. Like its predecessor"Passing Lights", it contains ten emotive tracks of up-tempo, instrumental and moody electronic music.
This time though, Mr Carrigan has put in a bit more hidden and straightforward power into the groovy songs. Besides that, I’m especially fond of the rich use of world music samples and gamelan-sounds in the spacious sound design that elevate the expertly mastered and produced music to a higher level.
Smooth world-beat and chill-outtish elements meet here in a surprising and fresh sounding kaleidoscope of exotic events next to a few more reflective-oriented moments such as "Kayak". Another reflective moment is found in the last piece "Summit", a slightly melancholic lullaby with a nice soaring mellotron flute.
If you like to open up a different perspective on the world that surrounds us, its many cultures and languages, the accessible and colourful music of "Focus" is a nice portal to start your own discovery.
© Bert Strolenberg
Check out more electronic music reviews by Bert Strolenberg at Sonic Immersion
Aug 30, 2012
|"Passing Lights" is the debut album by US-synthesist Bryan Carrigan, who’s also a most experienced synth programmer, sound designer, remixer, engineer and producer with extensive experience in records and post production under his belt. He e.g. did a wonderful job on Raygun Ballets "World that wasn’t" but also worked on movie scores such as "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" or "Righteous Kill".
The almost 42-minute "Passing Lights" is a joyful album containing ten melodic, slightly down-tempo oriented instrumental songs.
The detailed and open sounding outcome is catchy and accessible, offering a rhythmic journey through the world of contemporary electronics and a bit beyond.
Occasionally, as in "Centipede", Bryan nicely implements a dash of world music influences, while the trumpetsound in the Isham-mish"The Drive Home" gives it a hint of jazz. In the final track, "Beginnings", a silent, overall reflective mood sets in to round things out nicely.
Check out more electronic music reviews by Bert Strolenberg at Sonic Immersion
Mar 24, 2012
Mar 23, 2012
Nov 29, 2011
Bryan Carrigan traverses some familiar territory (world beat influenced electronica/chill-out) but in a unique (and entertaining) way on Focus, his second release as a solo artist. The recording is high quality ear candy – tasty, easy to digest, and leaving you wanting more, which is always the litmus test for great music. More than a few artists over the years have merged authentic world beat influences (such as ethnic instruments and percussion, chants, or other elements) with contemporary beats and electronic keyboards. However, Carrigan places less overt emphasis on the world music piece of the puzzle and instead "focuses" on using his assortment of keyboards, rhythm programming, and electronics to create a broader, more accessible (read: mainstream electronic) enjoyable listening experience. I'd go so far as to say Focus is world fusion for people who don't usually like word fusion, owing to the artist's considerable talent for crafting hook-laden electronic music.
Carrigan apparently is a one-man arsenal of talent: composer, performer, producer, engineer, and mastering expert. Production-wise Focus sounds superb, aglow with all manner of electronic wizardry - melody, texture, and beats galore light up the aural sky throughout the album. Because of this, if one were to strip out the world influences on this CD (and these influences can be subtle at times), favorable comparisons could be made to any number of contemporary electronic keyboard artists, such as Dave Mauk or Davol, among many others. Unlike most of these other artists, though, Carrigan and the beats he lays down on Focus are meant to rev you up to a certain degree, not necessarily chill you out.
Specific world beat influences include the Middle East, East India, the Far East (gamelan touches are particularly well-integrated) and at least one instance of Native American, but Focus is less about world music per se and, instead, presents itself as "worldly." While the world beat feel is there, the electronics are predominant. Your average electronic "accidental tourist" who avoids the exotic will enjoy this CD.
Focus engages the listener immediately on the first track, "circle of sound," with its ping-pong tones set against a backdrop of East Indian flavors and shuffling rhythms. After this cheery opening number, "cricket crossing" hints at mystery and shades of shadow, accentuated by gamelan tones and pulsing hand drums. Deep bass rhythms and an increase in tempo gradually chase away the darkness. "tzatziki" (that tasty Greek yogurt-based condiment) features chants, (what I assume is) balalaika, bell tones, and guitar. The piece's frenetic pace is balanced by its air of heady spiciness and the plucked orchestral string section is a very nice touch. "red moon" again brings gamelan influence to bear but the presence of a lot of synthesizer "droplets" keeps the song anchored in a contemporary vibe, as well as its bass-heavy beat. "cirque" explodes with a strong east Mediterranean feel, featuring an abundance of fast beats and exotic musical flavors. "alder" is the song that features a Native American influence, via a haunting flute, here treated to shuffling midtempo chillage.
There are a few more pieces on the CD, but I will leave you to discover them on your own, which you should do if you enjoy well-produced and expertly recorded electronica, even if you normally shy away from world fusion music. Bryan Carrigan can compose a hook-laden song with the best of 'em and he's no slouch whatsoever at the mixing board, either. Bring this highly enjoyable CD into "focus" and capture it for keeps.
Rating: Very Good+
-Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter 11/29/11
Nov 18, 2011
Bryan Carrigan is on my short list of talented ambient musicians that are revitalizing electronic music. It's not just samples on a garage computer and then filter them through the Korg and then onto a disc. Carrigan's music is warm, intricate and above all else, refreshing. RJ Lannan, Zone Music Reporter
It says in Bryan Carrigan's one paragraph bio that he is a producer, song writer, synthesist and sound designer. Well, I know he is a talented producer as he has just contributed to Jeff Oster's latest release and I can hear from his new album Focus, that he is a synthesist, but sound designer? Now I can definitely agree to that. He has also contributed to a plethora of film soundtracks and TV recordings. His new ambient album contains ten tracks of beat driven, complex and vivid electronics. And to his credit, the audio on Focus is outstanding. Circle of Sound is a bright, animated tune and a wonderful beginning to a series of elaborate audio vignettes. Carrigan's themes change from one song to the next, but he manages to bring most aspects of daily life, whether busy, energetic or pensive into the mix. There is nothing sedate about Bryan Carrigan's music. Circle of Sound is like an aural group hug. There are smiles, warmth and expectations in the notes. Cricket Crossing is a tune that has stealth capabilities. Its starts out rather innocuous, but suddenly I was drawn up into the beat and the melody just grabbed me and away I went. There are no insects in the tune, just a jaunty beat that gets you to follow it wherever it goes, and it marches forward. There is more than the obvious in the song called Tzatziki. The middle Eastern tinged composition has a bit of chant in the background, a driving piano lead and a terrific sense of discovery. Tzatziki is not just an accompaniment, it is a spicy sauce to garnish my adventure. Awakening, was a favorite, but it was too short. I just got into the tempo and was pacing myself when the tune ended. I had to start again. This I not just an open up your sleepy eyes and get started song, it is a call to join in the day and expect the unexpected. In our lackadaisical world, it is a message that bears repeating, so hit replay. In Summit, the final song, I reached the apex of the journey of the ten tantalizing tracks. Many times in my life when I achieved a goal there was the hurrah and then the short-lived celebration. With Bryan's delightful tune I wondered what was next with great anticipation. Bryan Carrigan is on my short list of talented ambient musicians that are revitalizing electronic music. It's not just samples on a garage computer and then filter them through the Korg and then onto a disc. Carrigan's music is warm, intricate and above all else, refreshing. His glimpses into daily life via colorful music is stimulating and encouraging. Carrigan is a sound design of high fashion audio. Highly recommended. Rating: Very Good
Nov 1, 2011
Oct 30, 2011
On his new CD, Surrender, trumpet/flugelhorn/keyboard player Jeff Oster has assumed the producing credits from Will Ackerman (who produced his first two efforts). The result is a drastic shift in direction for this talented multi-instrumentalist. Enlisting the assistance of co-producer Bryan Carrigan (who also handles drum programming, synths, and sound design), Oster has morphed his music into a hybrid of jazz fusion and chill-out with a dash of blues and a sprinkling of ambient while featuring a greater emphasis on a more contemporary style than his first two CDs. The result is a reinvigorating of Oster's already formidably stimulating music as he and Carrigan, along with occasional guest vocalist Diane Arkenstone, inject so many new elements that if it were not for his trademark horn playing, one might be hard pressed to recognize this as a Jeff Oster release.
It won't take but a few minutes into the first track, All That Matters, for fans of Released (2005) and True (2007) to realize that they "are not in Kansas any more." The bluesy muted trumpet melody is soon joined by shuffling chill-out beats and sprinkled with iridescent bell tones. A reverbed piano refrain that surfaces now and then injects a melancholic air into the proceedings, even as Oster lays down one bluesy lick after another on his horn. It's a great opening song and portends (correctly so) a lot of good stuff still to come. Voce Quer Dançar moves along anchored by a slinky chill-out rhythm, this time married to overlapping flugelhorn layers supported by subtle synth accompaniment. The song's bridge drops the rhythms and allows Oster to send one pealing flugelhorn blast after another into the aether. Nikki's Dream opens with a solemn flugelhorn lead set against a series of reverberating tones, supported by emerging layers of synth undercurrents, e.g. strings. The mood is wistful and "dreamlike" with occasional subtle trap kit drum rhythms. Oster breaks out some mellow r 'n' b influences for Essence of Herb, with an assortment of horn lines, some serving as lead, some as accompaniment, all of it set against a mellow mid-tempo rhythm. The same r 'n' b flavor gains some sass and sexuality on Surrender, owing not just to the downright slinky beats, but also Diane Arkenstone's smoky vocals (Yowza!). Oster's flugelhorn snakes around her sensual voice in a musical game of cat and mouse. Cocktail lounge jazz elements signal the start of 2 Di 4 with mellow electric piano and blues-tinted flugelhorn, this time draped amongst a laid-back tempo of contemporary electronic beats. The pace picks up on the propulsive pop/jazz/funk fusion of The Theology of Success. One of the best tracks on Surrender, the song underscores the dramatic shift Oster has undergone from previous releases. The quasi-disco beats that pepper the song with liveliness make it hard to resist moving one's feet or (as one former colleague of mine at Wind and Wire was fond of writing) breaking out into some "chair-dancing." A more ambient-fusion approach is heard onBeautiful Silence, as pinpricks of synthesizer starlight emerge from a dark sky, and hazy, drifting flugelhorn notes echo through the inky blackness. The next track, 54 Mirrors continues in an un-rhythmic/quasi-ambient vein but here the music is slightly darker, a tad more atmospheric with a hint of shadow.
Frankly, I could've done without the track The Voice. The music itself is not bad (although not up to the level of quality of the rest of the songs) consisting of jazzy-bluesy trumpet licks against a midtempo rhythm of electronic rhythmic textures, trap kit beats, bell tones and abstract synths. It's the somewhat overly earnest lyrics that grate on me a bit. Part of the song is spoken word (by Oster who wrote the lyrics) while the chorus is sung (and sung well) by Arkenstone. "Message" songs like this one are not bad in and of themselves, and I can relate to the song's theme, but there is getting across a point with subtlety and then there is the heavy-handed approach. For me, this song illustrates the latter.
Despite "The Voice," I can state unequivocally that Surrender is Oster's best recording so far. He and Carrigan make a great team (the tracks were either co-written by the duo or by Oster himself) and the album sounds fantastic from an engineering and production standpoint, not to mention the music which is a breath of fresh air with its blend of jazz, r 'n' b, chill-out, blues, and ambient genres. It hardly needs saying that Jeff Oster is a superb musician whether he is playing flugelhorn or trumpet and both he and Carrigan know their way around synthesizers and drum programming too. Surrender delivers musical enjoyment in abundance!
Rating: Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 10/30/2011
view here: Surrender review
Oct 21, 2011
For the third time flugel genius Jeff Oster offers an album of astounding audio tracks to which the human ear and the human heart can Surrender. Jeff presented to me eleven electronic, jazz and New Age songs that mystify the soul and allowed me to escape the hum drum, harried world. Trust me, I needed the break. Jeff is not only a master of his instrument, but a production wizard. His method is usually to loop, overlay and echo his flugelhorn into lush soundscapes that make me wonder what he could do with other instruments.
Oster is not only renowned for his previous two albums, Released and True, but also as a perpetually sought after sideman on the recordings of Will Ackerman's Imaginary Road Studios. Joining him on the album is noted New Age vocalist Diane Arkenstone and Bryan Carrigan who not only co-wrote eight of the songs and co-produced the album, but also added his multi-talented skills on drum programming. Surrender delves into the blending of contemporary music with a special mix of ambient and electronic tracks. It is not uncharted territory for Jeff, but this albums seems to have a new cohesiveness and tighter production values. I liked it from the first note.
The first cut All That Matters starts out with a very strong bass line and a muted horn lead. There are some sparkling synth washes and a breathy vocal in the background, but the layer or two of horns really captured my interest. Listening to this track, for me, was like watching a favorite movie. I had to listen again and again to hear all the subtle nuances buried in the notes. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that everything matters, so this is it, musically.
Voce Quer Dançar (You Want to Dance) is typical Oster. With a rush of ocean waves, a sensuous whisper and a strata or two of flugelhorn, the tune invited me to participate in the dance. It had a swaying framework of sound and a gentle beat with just enough bump to get my toe tapping. This is what Mozart really meant when he suggested "a little night music".
In Essence of Herb, Jeff takes up the trumpet in a tribute to the great horn player Herb Alpert. Alpert, from humble beginnings founded one of the most successful independent record labels of the sixties, namely A&M Records. Strangely, Alpert's most successful album (Rise) has a one word title and all of Jeff's albums have one word titles. Coincidence?
If you take advantage of what is naturally around you, you will always face lessening resistance. The title tuneSurrender suggests that you can surrender or take advantage of the influences around you. It is alright to dance when the music moves you. It is alright to smile when you meet a stranger. And it is a good thing to go with your heart.
Theology of Success had a pronounced electronic wash and then the busy flugelhorn flies in. The beat was something Gloria Estefan would have loved. Surprisingly, the tempo and mood changes from within the song and a cryptic vocal emerges from the sound track. This is one I turned up as I drove down the road.
The intro to Beautiful Silence reminded me of a music box and it became a favorite. Although the liner notes suggested that Surrender felt like Miles Davis meets Enya, this was one of the few songs that actually had a New Age feel to it. Gotta love those spin doctors. The song was exquisite in its depth and intricacy. I have learned however if you listen close enough with your heart, there is very little silence in the universe. I always hear music.
Enlightened Darkness is a bit off the beaten path for a Jeff Oster song, and I absolutely loved it. It starts out with throaty male chant, then Diane Arkenstone chimes in with her breathless vocal and the flugelhorn echoes throughout. Even after it fades away, I could still hear it in the air. Although dark at times, it still breeds introspection.
There is just enough jazz influences to draw the jazz crowd and plenty of instrumentals to satisfy several alternate genres fans. Contemporary music lovers will love this. Overall, the music is just fun to play and listen to. If you are anything like me, you will be in awe as you listen to Jeff Oster music and wonder, "How did he do that?"
Rating: Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 10/21/2011
view review here: Zone Music Reporter
Oct 15, 2011
Jeff Oster is an important name in the music recording industry, and by all accounts, he is an outstanding flugelhorn and trumpet performer like no other. I can say this about the classical and jazz trained horn player with confidence, even before sampling the first of eleven songs on his jazz fusion album he released titled Surrender.
Surrender is Jeff Oster’s fourth of his three prior releases; True, Released & At Last. For those as familiar with Jeff Oster like I am, then you recognize he is a dynamic session artist whose horn parts have played a vital role in music released from a multitude of top artists in the New Age and World music genres for many years.
While Jeff Oster has won album awards of his own, many of his collaboration releases won awards too, performing on studio recordings with artists like Fiona Joy Hawkins, Jamie Bonk, Matt Millecchia, Kori Linae Carothers, Lawrence Blatt, Ann Sweeten, Shambhu, and many more top new age artists producing music today.
Jeff Oster is likewise a strategic recording artist with GRAMMY® Award-Winning Will Ackerman, at his Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. My point is, besides Jeff Oster’s Album of the Year award, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album award and Best New Age Song award, he is an important artist having an essential role in the success of other artist’s albums too. In turn, musicians on his album are Diane Arkenstone with vocals, and Bryan Carrigan on synthesizer and drum programing.
Surrender features 11 contemporary jazz infused songs that mirrors the true nature of his abilities as a horn instrumentalist, which is the specialized work of a true music professional. And while one can say Surrender is designed as a new age fusion album with a strong urban jazz influence, closer inspection reveals a style of its own. In many ways there is an elegant and sophisticated tenor on each of the eleven songs, yet a poised and relaxed impression too, all in one smooth motion.
Recommending Surrender was truly an easy decision. Jeff Oster has a fine album, plus the chances of Surrender becoming an award winning album at the Independent Music Awards or Zone Music Reporter makes this release extra noteworthy.
While anticipating the award status of any new album is a challenge, I do knowSurrender has the distinction of being outstanding music most will appreciate too. Co-produced with Bryan Carrigan, who also co-wrote, recorded and mixed, Surrender, Jeff Oster is a vital flugelhorn and trumpet specialist. This is true, whether it be his own project or an album for another, each are equally important.
Visit the jeffoster.com homepage to sample or purchase or visit his amazon.com page. Find more on my page for Jeff Oster. Visit producer, engineer and recording artist Bryan Carrigan at BryanCarrigan.com.
John P Olsen, New Age Music World
For more great music and artist reviews please visit NEWAGEMUSICWORLD.com
interview here: Surrender Review at New Age Music World
May 26, 2011
May 25, 2011
Bryan Carrigan just finished co-writing and co-producing Jeff Oster's SURRENDER
As one of the few trumpet/flugelhorn artists working in ambient terrain, Jeff Oster draws from a rich background of classically trained, jazz tinged horn study, mixed with contemporary electronica and loop based electro-orchestral bed tracks. As you listen, imagine...
Check out Jeff's 4th album SURRENDER coming out August 2011
Jan 15, 2011
David Ryan from DVD Verdict reviews the 5.1 surround DVD & CD for Graham Parker and the Figgs: Live at the FTC that was mixed and mastered by Bryan Carrigan at Precision Sonics in Los Angeles.
One thing definitely needs to be highlighted with this DVD: the sound. The DTS surround track is, unquestionably, the best audio track I've ever heard on a concert DVD. Surround sound always promises the "You Are There!!!" effect—this track delivers it. All channels are in play—both rear surrounds get a workout, the bass is suitably thumpy, and the balance between the front right, center, and left channels is just about perfect. This is, literally, the first time I could close my eyes and actually fool myself into thinking that the artist was there in the room with me. It's just that good. I don't know what mojo went into recording this track, but whatever they did, they nailed it.