Where the Earth Meets the Sky by Tom Heasley Hypnos Recordings, 2001 http://www.hypnos.com Brass instruments have been used in ambient music before, but this is the first time I've ever heard ambient played on the tuba. Tom Heasley is a classically trained tuba player who has also played jazz and avant-garde music, and has now turned his deep brass bass into abstract sound in the classic Hypnos style. Heasley is a discovery of Robert Rich, who recorded and mastered this set, and the influence of Rich is very audible here. There is also a much earlier precedent for this album in Paul Horn's trombone pieces played in the Taj Mahal, but fortunately, modern digital reverb and looping techniques can take the place of the Taj Mahal soundspace and spare the building. There are four pieces on the album, averaging about 16 minutes each. The first one, "Ground Zero," is composed of long, slow tuba note loops in a very Rich-like orientalizing mode, all sunk in a dark ocean of reverb. The second track, "Western Sky," is based on fifths and has a somewhat lighter quality, a restful watery shimmer. This piece also has some brief vocalizations by Heasley in the "overtone" style. The second half of the album moves into more avant-garde territory. Without melody or recognizable notes, this is a much less accessible section of the album. Here in the third piece, "Monterey Bay," Heasley makes a lot of odd noises with breath, voice, tuba, and combinations of those things. Sometimes he sounds like a whale song (whale watching in Monterey Bay?) and sometimes he sounds like a foghorn (foggy California coastline?). The title track, "Where the Earth Meets the Sky," continues in the deepsea, whale song mode, with a lot of overtone Tibetan-style chanting and other moans and wails. The tuba sound is so altered that it sounds more like a synthesizer than a brass instrument. This last piece, I must say, is very weird and would probably appeal only to "dark ambient" connoisseurs. This is definitely an album for the specialized listener. If you have appreciated Robert Rich's recent releases such as Stalker or Humidity,, you will know what to expect from this Rich-produced album: dark, viscous, slow nocturnal soundworlds, occasionally traversed by both nightmares and moments of chilling beauty. HMGS rating: 7 out of 10 EER-MUSIC.com 8/11/2001
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