Friday, June 7, 2013

Dave Stafford (3) Transitory

OK - the next in my series of Dave Stafford reviews - the why & wherefore are listed in the beforeposts.


I bought this one on Dave's advice - Gone Native diverges from his 'signature' looping period, from which he suggested this.  And more recent correspondence has confirmed this as his favorite. 

Again there are extensive liner notes on line, so I can say this was created under some constraints. The pieces were made sequentially and independently; the first side was allowed to take time while the second half were to be made quickly; one word titles. The result is a lovely ambient loop album which doesn't suffer at all from the loss of post production track sequencing, where the quality doesn't drop in the second more intuitively performed works and the tracks have one word titles. (To be honest I would only call this a constraint if the words were picked first & the music written to suit them.)

We open with a string quartet sample at the centre of Circa, the guitar waltzing through and its gentle swooping reminds me of The Sinking of the Titanic in its reflection of nostalgia.

Then Raga, long held notes over Indian percussive loop. It builds and cycles, entrancing and eternal.  And then in what I think is one of his few missteps it ends - bang. No fade. This was a conscious decision to alert us to prepare for a new track. I just thought perhaps the download was truncated. I am still shocked by it each time I play the album.  A few tracks do it. 

While many of the tracts are like perpetuum mobile, Quartet slips between a drone and string-woodlike loops, dropping the drone for sections or with staccato breaks. Again a sudden end, but more fitting. 

Pulsar is a reverb cloud of spacey shards, as the name would suggest, while Arena is swooping ebow layers. This ends the first 'side.

Exert a short surging peaceful guitar loop/shimmer with a hymnal feel opens side 2.The organ tones of Vivid maintain the mood with a stately ebow with some almost subliminal orchestral samples. This is a subtle and deceptively simple track of which Dave is understandably proud. 

We are then Awash. A white noise is placed under loops that slither between guitar organ and voice tones. A nice twist is that by relooping the loops a decay is added to the mix. Relatively, perhaps deceptively, simple Pelican is a beautiful slow ebow tides.

The album ends with the longest (10+) piece - Wind. The flip to the indian mood of Rags, this has a Celtic air. A pipe-like loop swirls upwards in a layered loop before it trips and drops with a speedy little dance. 

A bonus track - Round - is added, but more of a bookend as it is 'merely' Circa backwards. It is faded in slowly and as it comes out of the darkness it is surprisingly recognizable, suggesting that the components that build it are quite symmetric with minimal attack or decay, but enough to give the track a strange familiarity. It drops away, returns and finally faded. 

It is fascinating that an album of loops ends with a track that loops back to the beginning. Dave could have claimed this was always his plan, buy admits the serendipity that is behind this satisfying structure. 

This is a beautiful ambient album which Dave places among his best and I would consider among the best ambient albums. It reminds you how great music is being produced around the world which is often found by luck - if I hadn't commented on his blog on Scape I wouldn't have found this music. 

I have one more album I want to review, mainly because it is another different side of Stafford & I want to indicate his breadth. But it won't be the last album of his I buy. 

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