Peppergreen Media (label)
01 October 2018 (released)
05 October 2018
Neuroplasticity. Each day our brains expand, learning and adapting to new challenges and situations. Training to become ever more powerful tools of the natural world. There are times when routine takes over and we may expand at a slower rate but at our best, we are pushing the bounds of our neuroplasticity. Music can have that same feeling. Most often, it relies on repetition within a small range of notes to provide a sense of comfort and to build a sense of community through familiarity. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, It's a great tool in bringing people together but it does very little to broaden what the mind can perceive and process. When an artist takes bold leaps across notes and timings in wildly imaginative new ways, it vastly widens our scope of possibilities. Listening is like giving your mind a full body workout, rather than just doing a couple biceps curls and calling it a day.
With a string of genre-expanding, guitar-centric classical fusion albums released in recent years, prolific composer Patrick Grant has decided to revisit his career-defining 1998 release FIELDS AMAZE and other sTRANGE music in which he gave life to a world of tremendously mentally engaging soundscapes with the unconventional use of guitar and piano and orchestral percussion. The result is a collection that is simultaneously deeply complex and effortlessly hypnotic. The New York producer who has worked with greats across many styles from the pop power of Billy Joel and Quincy Jones to the avant-garde genius of King Crimson's Robert Fripp, shows the work again to the world with added content made in and inspired by the time of its original recording.
The songs are prickly like they're tap dancing up and down your spine. The gamelan and other Balinese percussion figure heavily in the shaping of the sonics of the album. Grant's piano playing is highly informed by the percolating transient nature of the south-east Asian instruments. This tandem staccato attack is on full display on the curious title track which moves from big, supporting open chords to moments of measured dissonance, to triumphant passages that play like a juggler tossing ten different objects in his impressive finale. This impending feeling of time ticking away pervades the track, giving a sense of urgency but also the importance of seizing the moment.
The album features two contrasting pairs of songs, 'A Visible Track of Turbulence' parts I and II and 'Imaginary Horror Film' parts I and II. The former sews seeds of chaos but does so with the soft endearing tones of airy woodwinds. The melodies and counterpoints deftly dive and swoop like flocks of birds. Seemingly in disparate courses yet flying together in some sort of nebulous harmony. The latter pair uses the chilling nature of the gamelan to build a horror story tension. The tracks have the feel of a Danny Elfman score with 39% less cartoonishness.
FIELDS AMAZE and other sTRANGE music challenges us to hear beyond our daily notion of what music can be. By bridging vastly different styles and instrument ranges, Grant finds a fascinating middle ground between classical, rock and avant-garde experimentation. If you want to get those neurons firing, strap in and go on a journey of strange music.