To the Sky and Beyond the Stars (A Tribute to Michael Garrison)
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(Excerpt from track 'Parallels (Craig Padilla)')
The music of Michael Garrison was some of the first I encountered after venturing further afield from Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and I have always considered his 'In the Regions of Sunreturn' to be something of a classic. I never knew him personally but even so it was with great sadness that I heard of his death in March 2004. You only have to read the tributes from fellow musicians in the booklet or indeed the emails I have received from fans since to realise what an inspiring figure he was to many.
We open with a Redshift track 'Crystalline 94'. As with most of the numbers here it is otherwise unavailable. A slow sequence starts to build around spooky effects. Another sequence starts up then a rhythm is placed alongside it. Yet another sequence is chucked into an already boiling brew as well as some excellent lead lines and we really start to motor. The lead lines keep coming, getting better and better all the time. What a superb way to start the collection! In complete contrast we then get 'The Flight' by Eric Wollo. A four-step pattern of lovely melodic note droplets forms the initial structure through which weaves a tranquil ethereal lead line. Gentle rhythm is then added leading us forward at a relaxed pace. Beauty is again high on the agenda for Jonn Serrie's 'The Star Road'. A lovely flute casts its spell. Melodic percussion then takes over, calming both soul and mind in a way that Jonn knows how to do so well. Next we get one of the best tracks on this set 'The Pilgrim Soul' by Axess. Superb sequences mesh with gorgeous heart rending melodies to create a piece of music of near perfection. It even had something of the feel of Michael's own music about it. I haven't heard much new material from Venja recently but here we get 'Astral Waves'. It is more upbeat than I was expecting, bouncing along nicely with the odd vocal sample. Callisto (that is David Wright and David Massey) donate 'Chilled Naiad'. A beautiful piano lead fits perfectly with a slow drum line. The beat quickens in the second minute and the melodies become even stronger. This really is a gorgeous expertly crafted piece of music. Gert Emmens gives us 'The Beginning of a New Day'. We start in deepest space with soft solar winds and cosmic effects. A tuneful sequence then takes over. It does fit rather snugly next to the previous track actually as it did remind me of some of David Wright's solo work or even Code Indigo. 'Parallels' by Craig Padilla was created on analog equipment from the studio of Michael Garrison. As with the previous track we start with cosmic effects. A lovely deep thick sequence takes over and we smoothly move into very Jean Michel Jarre territory with loads of sounds that would have been perfectly at home on 'Oxygene' or 'Equinoxe'. The lead lines are also fist rate making it an extremely catchy piece and very easy to get on with. I can well see this being some people's favourite track here. Paul Lawler gives us 'Neon Nights'. Strummed guitar type sounds mix with a steady drumbeat and tinkling piano to create a lovely laid back and slightly jazzy piece. It's all carefully crafted and extremely cool. 'Return to the Sun' by Thought Guild combines a bright joyful sequence with a steady more bass laden one to great effect. Yet another sequence is then brought in. Again we have slight Jarre leanings and as before this results in a very enjoyable track indeed. Something Completely Different contributes 'Adagio for Michael'. Initially it is basically an arrangement of 'Greensleeves' given something of a cosmic approach! All very tasteful and relaxing. Things then take a different turn in the second minute and we move to more Gary Numan territory! It's all change again a minute later as cracking lead lines make an entrance taking us through a real body moving section only to return to classical realms for the finish. I know all this makes the track sound decidedly 'odd' but believe me it is fantastic, Electronic Music with humour. Any compilation would not be complete these days without a Schonwalder / Keller / Broekhuis track so it is no surprise that they appear here with 'Water Music 2'. Rhythmic percussion mixes with tranquil piano. We then descend to a rather atmospheric section with gentle pads and twittering effects replacing the syncopations but still with piano detail over the top.
We begin the second disc with '12 + 1' by Dom F Scab. Curious little melodies float above lonesome pads giving proceedings an almost mysterious feeling. A sequence very slowly starts to form. It momentarily disappears to come back with even more oomph, storming away in magnificent fashion, creating yet another highlight on this two CD set. 'Tirzan Sundance' by Wave World is a quirky and quite infectious little rhythmic number full of vigour and humour. Next we have two artists who I am unfamiliar with. Numina's 'Within Worlds' is an atmospheric offering conjuring up images of a misty swamp; faint animal type noises mingling with both soft and low fizzing pads. Some rhythm is added in the third minute but it just provides a little structure rather than shattering the peace. Rein van den Oever's 'Bon Voyage' starts by mixing subtle sounds with tinkling effects and just a hint of melody from time to time. A slow sequence starts up then another. It isn't long before an excellent lead blazes over the top. I loved it and look forward to hearing more of his work. Sayer gives us 'Amaranthine', driving us forward with yet more high-class rhythms and melodies but also with skilfully placed sensitive interludes. It is good to hear that he is going from strength to strength since his 'First Encounter' album. Binar are always a class act and this is amply demonstrated with 'Into the West'. It all starts quite mysteriously with haunting piano, swirling effects and even a hint of organ. The mood lightens as a no nonsense rhythm strikes up alongside a scintillating lead line. It is an excellent track showing wonderful musicianship throughout. Rudy Adrian's 'Sisters' rumbles into life. A deep menacing sequence surges forward. Another sequence is added, as are drums. This is a superb Berlin School inspired track which was apparently recorded in 1998 and it seems amazing that it has avoided release until now. 'Fade Away' by Remy keeps the quality of the very highest order. A four-note loop builds quite a dark atmosphere. Some wonderful sighing pads are added then a superb melodic motif is brought in to complete the picture. All the individual elements of this track go together so well; mere words can't do it justice. It is simply a wonderful moody composition. Rogue Element return us to the Berlin School style with 'A Different Sky'. The sound of a wind blown moor land gives way to crashing effects before the inevitable sequence spews at one hundred miles an hour from the speakers, accompanied by lovely mellotron pads. Basically if you are into Tangerine Dream from the mid to late 70s period you will love this. 'Godspeed' by Jeffrey Koepper keeps the sequences deployed right from the first moment as we bounce along at quite a pace. More lovely TD type sounds are used in the background as the track builds beautifully. Just a touch of melody is deployed here and there to keep the attention locked in but really it is the wonderful pulsations that steal the show. Yet another highlight! Akikaze changes style with 'The Iceland Error' but don't expect a calm interlude as a heavy rhythmic barrage and extremely rapid staccato lead lines are delivered with great panache. The melodies really are incredible catchy. It's one of those tracks which will get the whole body moving and leave a huge smile on the face. Fred Becker's 'River Reveree' is a relatively short pulsating number with a slightly mysterious quality to it. Stephen Parsick donates 'Impact (2004 Remix)'. It was originally recorded in 1991 but sounds even earlier. Dominated by snare drums and high hat rhythms it thunders along at quite a pace. We finish this wonderful double CD set with the appropriately titled 'Requiem' by Cosmic Hoffmann. It has a spacious ethereal quality to it full of lovely mellotron sounds creating a decidedly melancholy feel but with a sense of mystery.
Just looking through the list of artists who wanted to contributed to this album shows how well respected a musician Michael Garrison was. He will be greatly missed. (DL)
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