A well-crafted, if not adventurous, electronic trip
By Chris Cooper
The brainchild of programmers Robert Smith (no, not the guy from the Cure) and Bill Walters, Blue Stone produces evocative, dreamy textures that skate between subtlety and head-spinning surprise. Taking cues from Enigma, Tangerine Dream and maybe some Enya and Sarah Brightman, Breathe goes for the dreamy soundtrack feel and manages to bring some world influences to the mix.
It’s a little tough to analyze mostly textural music like this, so it seems best to see it for its purpose — more mood than rock bombast or pop bounce. That said, even those elements present themselves over the course of Breathe. Biting synth and distorted guitars appear over traditional chant in “Traveler,” eventually giving way to a sparse piano melody, and finally all those elements together. Fans of the production “sound” of guys like Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno will probably find some enjoyable moments on this CD. I found myself thinking of Robbie Robertson’s Lanois produced solo record at times, and Kate Bush’s early 90’s work in “Lost” and “Forgiven.”
“Forgiven” also is rather fearless in its stew of orchestral, native and wholly digital elements. Pizzicato strings and squashed synthesizer blips don’t necessarily want to jive with one another, but apparently once the marimba shows up every body gets along swimmingly. “Only One” features drastically effected vocals by Darcy. Notable as well is that not all of the percussion on the album is produced digitally — many of the sounds are real doumbek, udu and djembe, played by real people. This incorporation possibly accounts for the slightly more “organic” nature of the CD in comparison to much of the new-age/electronic stuff available.
“Holy Ground” again comfortably throws exotic harmony into a blender with modern synthesizer and Middle-Eastern vocals, culminating in a percussion-only segue into “Searching.” Many tunes blend seamlessly into each other on Breathe, making it more of an album “experience” than a stiff collection of strict “songs.” But Blue Stone does an exceptional job of pacing the album, so rarely do you get too much of the same thing from song to song.
That said, and honestly not being an “electronic” music kind of guy, there is inevitable similarity from top to bottom to my ears. The extremes are in the instrumentation, not the songs themselves. By never venturing completely “over the edge” musically, Blue Stone delivers an album easily palatable by light electronica and new age fans, but maybe without enough bite to attract as much attention as they really could.
Overall, Breathe simply floats from the speakers. Headphones are highly recommended for the full experience, and possibly indicates my childhood music nerd history: the first time you fall prey to Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” bridge section with phones, you learn to listen to everything at least once with them. Dude, really. Blue Star delivers appropriately with Breathe, earning an admirable 3.75 stars, exactly. Check them out, along with other like-minded artists, at www.neurodisc.com.