Sunday, March 26, 2017

Numeric Driftwood III

"Shadows Fall So Blue"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]



Our third volume of music to drift off to dreamland to doesn’t stray too far from the template set in the previous two volumes ... which I think we can construe as a good thing.  Just as before, we’re hearing from Anjey Satori, Kitaro, and the Angels of Venice—who provide our opener this time around, “Awake Inside a Dream”—although only one track each this volume.  David Darling also returns from volume II, this time with the title track off his even mellower album Cello Blue.  And while our first volume had Siouxise singing the song that Kaa sings to Mowgli in Disney’s Jungle Book, this volume sees Better Midler give us a take on the song Dumbo’s mother sings to him in Dumbo.  And, in one final echo of volume II, this volume also ends with two consecutive vocal tracks: “Baby Mine” is followed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s uncharacterically soporific “Sleep Tight.”  It’s a nice way to end: two pretty lullabies to help make sure you’re solidly somnolent.

But this volume also brings us a lot of new artists, including some of my favorite albums to drift off to.  Enigma finally makes an appearance here, with “Callas Went Away,” which is probably the most restful of the tunes off their classic debut album MCMXC a.D.  The rest of that album is good, no doubt, but it’s not as apt to actually put you to sleep as what I generally look for in this mix.  Another of my favorite albums to just chill out with is the soundtrack from Twin Peaks, by Angelo Badalamenti, with occasional vocals from Julee Cruise, such as the track I’m using here, “Into the Night.”  “Into the Night” is a curious tune, because while it’s super-mellow for 95% of its just-under-5-minutes’ running time, it does have an unexpected crescendo towards the end which might actually wake you up if you’re not expecting it.  That’s probably the reason it took so long to land on this mix, to be honest.  But, in the end, I felt that that one moment couldn’t completely negate its appropriateness here.  Besides: once you know it’s there, it rapidly loses its power to shake up your consciousness.  And, if nothing else, I put it fairly early in the tracklist so there’s a decent chance you’re not quite asleep yet.  Plus it handily provides our volume title, so it’s sort of crucial to the volume.

Another of my favorite mellow bands is the Blue Nile.  Like Enigma, most of their music is relaxing but not quite sleep-inducing, but every now and again they hit the jackpot.  While “From a Late Night Train” has a gentle, pining quality that almost qualifies it for Wisty Mysteria,1 it’s also soothing in a strange way that I can’t fully describe.  It makes a nice transition into our middle stretch, and also means that there’s four fully vocal tracks, as well as two others with a few breathy, whispered words,2 which is a new record for this mix.

There’s also more proper new age on this volume than on previous installments—perhaps even more than on any other mix volume I’ve done so far.  Besides Kitaro and Satori, who we can definitively say are new age, and Angels of Venice, who we might dabble with describing as “neoclassical” before admitting that, yeah, they’re pretty new-age-y, we also have Anugama, Torben Thøger, and Hilary Stagg, who form a 4-song block with David Darling wedged firmly in the middle.3  Anugama we’ve heard from before, on Shadowfall Equinox; he’s a German musician who spent many years in Asia absorbing meditative music.  “Shaku Sunset” is a perfect example of that influence: it has a gentle East Asian feel, and fades away into the chirping of crickets, which transitions beautifully into “Cello Blue,” which kicks off with chirping birds.  The overall effect is that of a pre-dawn morning.  Then “Cello Blue”‘s chirping birds flow into the babbling brook of “A Wonderful Place.”  Torben Thoger is a Danish composer and filmmaker; most of his work I find a little too new-age-y, but “A Wonderful Place” is really beautiful, even though at over 13 minutes, it’s the longest track on this mix (or, again, quite possibly on any of my mixes).  But I make special allowances here: this type of music is one of the few places where very long tracks can actually serve the purpose well.4  But assuming you’re still awake after nearly 13½ minutes of the calming soundtrack that accompanies the running water, that fades nicely into the sublime harp of Stagg.  Hilary Stagg was an electrician inspired to take up the harp after attending a concert by Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider, and he soon created a unique harp style that combines electrical amplification and lucid dreaming.  Again, Stagg is often way too new age for my tastes, but “Drifting Toward a Dream” is a pretty perfect example of how good he can be when he’s on.


Numeric Driftwood III
    [Shadows Fall So Blue]


        “Awake Inside a Dream” by Angels of Venice, off Awake Inside a Dream
        “The Mist” by Kitaro, off India
        “Night Surround” by Anjey Satori, off For Relaxation
        “Into the Night” by Angelo Badalamenti, off Twin Peaks [Soundtrack]
        “From a Late Night Train” by The Blue Nile, off Hats
        “Callas Went Away” by Enigma, off MCMXC a.D.
        “Shaku Sunset” by Anugama, off The Lightness of Being [Compilation]
        “Cello Blue” by David Darling, off Cello Blue
        “A Wonderful Place” by Torben Thøger, off Akasha
        “Drifting Toward a Dream” by Hilary Stagg, off Dream Spiral
        “Floating On” by Koushik, off Out My Window 5
        “Grace” by Beth Quist, off Silver
        “Baby Mine” by Bette Midler, off Beaches [Soundtrack]
        “Sleep Tight” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, off This Beautiful Life
   
Total:  14 tracks,  76:57


Which only leaves us with two tracks.  Beth Quist we’ve seen before on other mixes,6 but this is her first appearance here.  “Grace” is a track off her first album, Silver, and exemplifies what make her great: middle-Eastern-influenced music, and her wordless vocals are just another instrument, and one with magnificent range.  This is more relaxing than most of her oeuvre, which is of course why it fits in so nicely here.

And leading into Quist is a short bridge from Indian-Canadian electronica artist Koushik.  “Floating On”7 is exactly what it says on the tin: a short, floating melody that carries us gracefully from the transcendent harp of Stagg to the otherworldly voice of Quist.


Next time, we’ll wake back up with another installment of getting down to brass tactics.


Numeric Driftwood IV




__________

1 A mix which we shall come to in the fullness of time, of course.

2 That would be the Enigma, of course, and the Angels of Venice track, perhaps a bit surprisingly.

3 And we could probably describe Darling as new age too, if we’re being honest.

4 The other place being Shadowfall Equinox.

5 On some versions of this album, including the one I’m linking you to, “Floating On” is listed as “Flying On.”  But it’s the same song.

6 On Smokelit Flashback IV and V, as well as Sirenexiv Cola I and Paradoxically Sized World IV.

7 Or, on some versions of Out My Window, “Flying On.”