The Light Beyond by Jeff Pearce Hypnos Recordings, 2001 http://www.hypnos.com The master of luminescent drifting sound, Jeff Pearce, returns with a sequel to his exquisite To the Shores of Heaven (Hypnos, 2000), in this real-time set recorded live at an all-night radio show. As with the earlier album, all Pearce's sounds are made on electric guitar, though they are very heavily modified. But unlike its predecessor, there are almost no openly recognizable guitar tones. It sounds like Pearce is using a synthesizer. The marvels of modern technology sustain the sound of a picked string, or transform a strummed chord into a soft shimmering wave that rises and falls out of nowhere. Pearce even gets soft, understated percussion sequences out of one of his electronic gadgets.
There are only four tracks on this album. The first and last are the shortest, more like an introduction and a finale. The second, "Across the Infinite Sea," is one of the most beautiful space- ambient tracks I have ever heard. Yes, ever. Lush seventh and ninth chords, passing like clouds, sound mysterious and remote, yet warm and inviting. There is a subtle, pattering percussion track in places, but it is mostly a smooth and stately voyage across that calm and audible sea.
The third track, "A Farther Shore," is a 43-minute tranced- out trip to a world of pure light. It's based on just one key signature, with long, sustained notes fading in and out, some on bass but most in the treble range. I don't recommend listening to this piece if you are working, driving, or doing anything that requires effort. After a few minutes, you'll feel as though you've gone to heaven, even if you aren't dead, and Heaven lasts a long, long, eternal, time…..uh, where was I? I'm still on earth? Well, this is a fine album, and I suppose I should be glad that the voyage to the light beyond is only virtual.
HMGS rating: 9 out of 10 EER-MUSIC.com 5/14/2001
TO THE SHORES OF HEAVEN by Jeff Pearce Hypnos Records, 2000 HYP2022 http://www.hypnos.com There are quite a few artists in the ambient field who use electric guitar as part or all of their musical instrumentation, but none does it so well as Jeff Pearce. In this solemn but beautiful album there are timbres and sound-effects, and even percussion sounds, which you would think were done on a synthesizer - but all of it is done with electric guitar. That does not mean that there is no actual guitar-playing on the album; it does show up, contemplative and smoothly slow, at times reminiscent of Will Ackerman’s work for Windham Hill and “Imaginary Roads.” Indeed this is a slow-paced album, but that hardly means that it is dull or boring. The motion of this music is drifting and cloud-like, often circling around a single motif, a minimalist meditation on a few notes or even one or two chord changes; in this it is similar to the work of Tim Story (Beguiled, The Perfect Flaw) who does similar things with piano. Because Pearce chooses to work with conventional tonality most of the time, he chooses harmonies which stand up and become enriched by this minimalist treatment, blended by the “infinite reverb” which is so characteristic of the best ambient. The sound-material dissolves into a magical shimmer that glows and fades at just the right moments. At times, this soundscape dips into the realm of dark ambient (as in cut 5, “Rain as a Metaphor,”) but it never stays there very long. This is an album I would classify as “ambience of light;” even though it sometimes has a melancholy undertone, it is created to bring out feelings of hope, beauty, and even exaltation. Towards the end of the album, with cut 10, “To the Shores of Heaven,” Pearce unleashes swells of soundwaves which reach toward a vision of glory, then follows with a pastoral guitar epilogue, no. 11, “Reunions,” where the “country” evoked is that of the far country beyond the gates of this world. Pearce has put this album together beautifully, the succession of pieces creating moods which form a kind of ambient narrative leading from darkness to light, from sadness to hope. It is an exquisite album which should be numbered among this year’s best. HMGS rating: 10 out of 10 EER-MUSIC.com 11/12/00
True Stories by Vidna Obmana and Jeff Pearce Mirage Records, 1999 http://www.oasisproductions.com Vidna Obmana (the Belgian ambient electronic composer, whose real name is Dirk Serries) has been prolific in the last half of the ‘90s and into this new decade. I am happy to report that I like his new music more and more. This collaboration with ambient guitarist Jeff Pearce is a good sample of the newer Obmana style. Obmana has chosen his collaborators wisely, especially his longtime musical partnership with Steve Roach. I must admit that the reason I like Obmana’s music a lot more now, is that there is a heavy Roach influence in it. Roach has given Obmana a better sense of chord choice and pacing than he had before they worked together. Similarly, here with Pearce, Obmana must work within the sweet harmonies of the guitar, rather than depend on the gloomy atonal or microtonal tone-clusters that used to dominate his sound. True Stories advertises itself as a series of small-scale, descriptive pieces designed to evoke an unspoken narrative. Each piece does have a different mood, but in general this album epitomizes throughout its length, the “relaxation” kind of ambient music – not too scary, very slow, devoid of rhythm or annoying percussion, and made with “floating” tones that drift in and out of hearing. Though Pearce contributes to every track, the actual sound of his guitar only appears in some of the pieces.. These are not necessarily my favorites. I especially enjoyed the all-electronic #3, “Horizon of thought” – though again, it is very much in the style of Steve Roach, almost to the point of direct imitation. I also liked #9, “The open darkness.” Both of these pieces use more dissonance, which gives the piece a “mysterious” mood. The other pieces have a sweeter, more harmonious sound. One thing which I noticed about this album is that between most of the cuts there is about 25 seconds of silence; this is probably a deliberate choice of the composers, but it can be misleading as I began to wonder at some points whether my CD player was working correctly. I guess you must factor the silence in as part of the listening experience. In general, it’s a good experience. If you are anxious - try True Stories - it might just be the drug-free tranquilizer you need. HMGS rating: 8 Hannah M.G.Shapero 5/25/00
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