Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dave Stafford (4) All things being equal

When I downloaded the Pureambient free compilations I was struck by one track that seemed more experimental, edgy. Then while I was first looking through his discography I noticed a track called Blint's tune - parts 18 to 34 I recognized that this was a reference to the final side of Godley/Creme's amazing six-sided opus Consequences. When I saw the intriguing track was from this album, I had to get it. I got All Things Being Equal from the Pureambient site, but it is now available at bandcamp.

This album has three sides to cover. 

The first part gave the album its title. It consists of 7 relatively short tracks, the first composed got the name Pastel = doubt and the idea for a binamial track titling popped into Dave's head, and the album title followed.(The naming also suggests links between the tracks)

The first track Annunciation = day exemplifies the complexity which Dave has inserted into these short pieces - the whole side is only 22 minutes long. A bright calypso beat with steel guitar swings into distorted guitar with a feeling of dread, tabla through back & then back to the steel, back again to distortion, a harp over ticking then theremin, distant guitar solo and beats, piano solo, bloops of synth with low guitar, an abstract segue into a piano solo which (like many elements here) could expand into a long track of its own. And finally it all dissipates into a long fade which is almost as long as the rest of the track. 

Drones open Pastel = doubt joined by melodica like tones (or high strings), with little synth eruptions, quite menacing and slow. A King Crimson feel to Improv = mincer with little percussion bursts, some bendy guitar, deep drone which suddenly bursts and guitar intersperses with Mellotron. 

Day = twilight seems familiar, a car engine tries to start as a calypso beat plays on tuned percussion - and the notes explain that it is track 1 with different settings: an amazing way of working and shows the wonder of modern electronics. The long fade becomes a swirling bleep. A lovely short bass, guitar drum Trio = power.

Doubt = certainty mysterious formless piece of ambience - deep underthrobs, slinking guitar, distant. And finally for this short excursion, Twilight = night takes the drone from the first track allowed room to display itself with some added bass, different reverb and ending this part of the set with a gorgeous long swoop.

Described as the 8th track, Blint's tune = parts 18-34 (note the similar naming) is in its originally format a 51 minute track, as the original mix. But you get a bonus disk (download) which is the 17 component tracks of Blint's tune presented separately in a mix that was created after the single version was made. It is an interesting presentation as it gives each piece its own personal space. 

17 tracks over 51 minutes is too much to try and describe in detail - and even highlights aren't quite the right way. So I'll just throw out some impressions. Opens with percussion & searching guitars finding way. (The drums on the suite are mainly from a piece created by Mike Bowman for Drone Forest to sample). Long slow loop, wild rocking guitar, a cathedral of layered loops, hidden tones, distorted dirty guitar swings from ear to ear, throbbing bass, dark. E-bow, mad percussive loop, building, reverse guitar, e-bow. Gritty guitar, harpsichord, birds reminds me of the original; a sample on a late track also does that), piano, melancholic accordion. A guitar-craft circulation (Dave regrets inserting, but it fits! The longest part) Weird choppy guitar over drums, the final track has cymbals, a drone, slipping into a long fade before the real conclusion on a different drone, distant birds, a dim light at tunnel's end. Changing moods, changing speed, changing density, dissonance to sonority! 

I have listened to individual tracks and the single long version - they each have their place: individually they work as short songs, as a longer suite the fades and segues are seamless but audible - they are smoothly done. This is an album that points in all Dave's directions at once - very satisfying and complex.

I have been lucky in the way I have got to know Dave's music - I didn't have the chance to pigeonhole him as looping-ambience as I have encountered his diversity from the start - Gone Native, this and the ambient albums. And now there is the pleasure of following his path through his various apps - in particular Mixtikl (go to Mixtikl eternal album here) as mentioned before on &etc.

(This will be my last Stafford retrospective review - I have bought another album recently (The haunting - lovely ambience: 6 midlength tracks with 2 whopper remixes). But I will leave it for you to explore, as all Dave's albums are available on Bandcamp which offers the chance of listening on-line for free &/or buying individual tracks or albums. Get there via the Mixtikl link. I haven't hit a dud one yet)

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