Reviews 10-13-2013

Music Reviews 



Below Zero

by Bryan Carrigan

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I think that after listening to music for the last 50 years or so I tend to appreciate an artist who is able to break free of the artificial constraints that the “genre” label tends to put on a musician in regards to what they will compose and record and release. People change and grow as the years pass so why in the world would we ever expect that an artist would never expand the types of music that they were comfortable in composing and releasing? With the release of Below Zero at the beginning of October 2013 Bryan Carrigan is changing things up a bit from what you heard on his last release Windows and I find it refreshing that as an artist Bryan doesn’t feel compelled to release the same music album after album. In the old music industry that has ceased to exist it was considered normal business practice to find a musical formula for an artist and then release it over and over again until the public quit buying what they were selling. I don’t miss that part of the business at all.

There are 14 tracks on Below Zero and they cover quite a bit of interesting musical territory and show that Bryan is able to create music in a wide variety of styles that showcases his talents as a multi-faceted composer. While I would not classify this album as ambient music it still has much to offer to a listener who wants to put on an album in the background and relax after spending a hard day in the work trenches making a living. On the other hand I would say that Bryan has crafted a wonderful chill-out release with Below Zero and the music could also lend itself to more focused listening as Bryan has done a great job with arranging the music so that it holds your attention and engages the attentive listener. One of my favorite tracks on this album is a song called Frisky Martini and it combines a wonderfully laid back synthesizer, some soft keyboard work along with a steady beat that just flows over you like a slow fog coming in off the water that blots out all your surroundings until you are left with nothing but the music acting like a lighthouse in the subdued environment shining to show you the way forward. To top that off he throws in a muted trumpet a little ways into the song and at that point you become aware of exactly how much thought that Bryan has put into this recording and how he wanted to layer this song to entice the listener to enter fully into his vision. Well done Bryan.

 When I listen to an album like Below Zero each song represents a slice of the whole project but each song is very unique and individual when it comes to its mood and what the composer hoped to communicate to the listener via that composition. Not every song is a laid back piece but that is what I like about the album as a whole. Some of the more memorable tracks on the album include Slinky which has a darker feel to it than most of the other songs on this album, Runway which has a stimulating beat that gives this song an invigorating vibe and also shows the elasticity of Bryan’s talents in regards to the music he composes and finally Twist of Lime as my last favorite song which spotlights Bryan’s synth work and his arrangements. Twist of Lime was painting on two distinct musical palettes during its four minute run as it brought to mind some late night jazz club music and blended that with some mysterious and haunting slow beat chilled out atmospheric synth sounds.   

All in all Bryan’s latest release is well worth the effort to listen to and then to listen to it several more times so that you truly appreciate the work that has gone into the creation of the music. All too often we as listeners tend to put an album on and then think of it in terms of the length of the album instead of thinking about the time that the artist has spent working on this music tweaking it so that it truly represents just what the artist felt when they composed the song. Feelings are a tricky business to communicate and even though we only spend about 60 minutes or so listening to that finished product we should appreciate the effort that has gone into it. You will find much love encased in the music on this album as Bryan has shown himself to not only be a talented musician but a great arranger as well who translates his inner vision of the music into a tangible release that allows the music to speak for itself.

Below Zero is a great follow up album to Bryan’s last release and leads me to believe that we will be hearing a lot more from Bryan in the future. Considering that the music spanned several styles during the 56 minutes on this album the level of production on this release was impressive. This album simply proves that Bryan is an innovative musician who will continue to grow with each new release and that no matter what he might be recording today he will always have his eye (ear) set on exploring new territories with his music in the future. The album as a whole has a mellow feel to it but it is filled with nuance and emotional texture for the listener who decides to spend the time with it unraveling the sensations that Bryan has embedded in each of the songs. This one is definitely on the Ambient Visions recommended list of new albums.

Reviewed by Michael Foster editor Ambient Visions