Reviews 12-24-2012

Music Reviews 




by Bryan Carrigan

Visit Bryan's website


Youíve probably heard Bryan Carriganís work many times in the past but have been unaware that you were listening to something that he had helped to produce or engineer. Bryan is one of those people who work behind the scenes to make great music sound even better. With job titles such as music producer, engineer, music editor, programming and sound design it might be understandable that you didnít know of Bryanís involvement in the soundtrack of one of your favorite movies or one of those television shows that you watch all the time but nevertheless he was there. And while this is Bryanís bread and butter so to speak in terms of a day job he has also been working on music that is more personal to him and for which he is totally responsible. And I mean that in the most literal way since Bryan composed, performed, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album.  While Bryan is very proud of what he has done in the studio for other musicians, composers and artists I suspect that he is a lot more proud of the material that he is putting out under his own name as an electronic musician.

To date Bryan has put out three albums under his own name including Passing Lights (2011), Focus (2011) and his latest album called Windows (2012). Since I have not listened to his first two releases I wonít be doing any comparisons in this review but if the other two were anything like Windows in terms of quality and musicianship then Iím sure you wouldnít go wrong in checking them out after you have had a chance to allow Windows to soak in. In my own experience in listening to music it has been educational to start with the latest release and then work my way back through the artistís catalog because it gives me a sense of how they have grown as a musician with each subsequent release. After having spent some quality time with Windows I am already looking forward to listening to Focus and then Passing Lights as well to get a good sense of Bryanís progression with his composing and performing.

Windows consists of 10 tracks that all work together very well to create an atmosphere of peace that flows from composition to composition. The music covers quite a bit of ground in terms of style but none of it disrupts the flow that starts on track one and moves steadily through to the very end. Most of the tracks on this album are right around 5 or 6 minutes with a couple of songs that lean heavily towards the spacey end of electronic music and those songs stretch out to 7 and 13 minutes. All of the songs are more than long enough for Bryan to create soundscapes that draw the listener into his sonic worlds and invites them to spend some time contemplating the musical tapestry that he is weaving just for them. Even a track like Seventh Stone which is a lot more reminiscent of world music and does have a beat to it still falls into line with the overall feeling of the album which is one of tranquility and relaxation. Bryanís production skills are evident in that he can harmonize these tracks into a thematic whole even though they are not all cut from the same cloth.

In fact it is this very variety that tends to make me appreciate the album that much more. As long as an artist is able to keep from jarring me with sharp turns in song choices as the album progresses I am usually on board with having the music that I am listening to offer me a landscape that is varied and interesting. And that is exactly what Bryan has accomplished on Windows. One of my personal favorites on the album is a song entitled Fields of Poppy which starts off with the sound of Bali bells and of electronic bird calls floating and echoing in the background. Bryan starts with that simple palette and continues to add layer upon layer of instrumentation on top of it all while maintaining the subtle yet rich base from which it began. You end up with a composition that is wonderfully expressive and evokes in the listener images of far off and exotic cultures. While I am sure that Bryan spent much time creating this landscape of sound it seems to happen so effortlessly on the album that many of us might forget the skill that is needed to create this soundstage and deliver it to the listener.

It is difficult to pick anything as a favorite off of this album because each song appeals to the listener in a different way but I enjoyed the opening track called Into Light which launches the album with its gentle synth washes that bring to mind the vastness of space with its ebb and flow of energy stretching out across light years of distance and time. Another favorite off of this album is a track called Masquerade. A sequencer driven piece that is wonderfully programmed and delivers a pulsing, rhythmic feel while never losing the sense of where the album is headed.

Iím sure that most ambient/new age/electronic music fans will find something to like about this album and once you have absorbed the particular songs that first attracted you to the project I would invite you to listen to the other compositions on this album and Iím sure you will find yourself agreeing that Windowsí diversity is not a distraction but the very thing that makes this album something you will listen to again and again. Windows is a sonic delight and Iím sure it will be in my listening rotation for many months to come.
Definitely recommended by Ambient Visions. 

Michael Foster, editor Ambient Visions