Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Grönland Records (2008)
12 tracks: 49:33
Grade: A

Role reversal for the artists involved pays significant dividends on inlandish, the latest collaboration between ambient pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius and modern chamber minimalist Tim Story. These two have been mutual admirers for awhile now and the level of simpatico that weaves all through this CD is special indeed. As mentioned in the first sentence, the two swapped instruments this time around, with Roedelius contributing the simple uncluttered piano melodies/refrains and Story adding the quirky yet appealingly accessible electronic effects and textures. In addition, previous Story contributors Martha Reikow (cello) and Kimberly Bryden (oboe), as well as newcomer Bernadette Reiter (viola) also lend their considerable talents on assorted tracks.

Mood-wise, inlandish (for the most part) hews closely to the emotional resonance of Story’s Shadowplay, The Perfect Flaw and Beguiled but not always, as this review will delve into later. Frequently, when the music features percussive effects or unusual (for Story, that is) electronics, such as the chattering beats and eerie synths on “downrivers,” Roedelius’ piano keeps things firmly planted in a safe yet somber landscape. Still, not all is gloomy, either. The warm wavering flowing keyboards on “ripple and fade” are counter-balanced by sparse minimal piano and the track actually resembles some of Richard Bone’s quieter compositions. The short “rooftree” features graceful bell tones lazily bubbling on top of Reikow’s cello and Bryden’s oboe. Opening the album, “as it were” sways gently on accordion-like keyboards and pleasantly quavering washes, while the piano and cello dance elegantly above it. The repeated melodic tones on the title track are balanced by an assortment of abstract synth textures and swatches of fuzzy tones and the piano here anchors the overly electronic aspects so that the overall musicality of the cut doesn’t stray from the established norm of the CD. “serpentining” cruises along with electric circuitry hum and buzz crackling underneath piano and Glass Green-era synths.

Towards the end of the album, the mood morphs a bit into something less low-key with the more energetic piano-driven “riddled” with its peppy (even ragtime-ish) circular melody accented by various rhythmic effects as well as Reiter’s sole appearance on viola, which, through distortion, lends a subtle dash of dissonance to the proceedings. “beforst,” contains some semi-abstract retro synths/keyboards, again balanced by piano refrains which balance out the weirdness. Likewise, “house of glances” contains some skittering quavering electronic elements which I was not overly fond of but Bryden’s oboe and Roedelius’ piano show up just in time to soften the harshness.

While I haven’t yet decided if inlandish is in the same league as The Perfect Flaw or Beguiled, that’s no knock on it since I consider the former two releases to be among the very finest albums released in this genre. Speaking of which, I’m hard pressed to categorize this recording. I read in a press sheet which accompanied the CD that Roedelius thinks the term “ambient” doesn’t fit the CD well at all, and in essence, I agree. The overt electronics scattered throughout inlandish are certainly not contemporary classical in nature, but there’s the presence of cello, oboe and viola which do point in that direction. Still, I wouldn’t dare lump it into that genre, either. At times I was reminded of the neo-chamber minimalism of Beguiled and…Flaw, while at other moments, the more abstract elements brought Glass Green, Lunz (a previous Roedelius-Story effort) and Shadowplay to mind.

For now, it suffices to state that Story and Roedelius have combined their considerable talents to produce an emotionally rich, carefully nuanced, complex yet inviting blend of piano minimalism, neo-chamber string and wind instruments, and subtle unconventional electronic textures and effects, the result being a recording that invites both close inspection and/or casual listening. inlandish is, for lack of a better definition, intelligent introspective instrumentalism, a journey down hallways that alternate between the sun-streaked and the shadowy, a trip through lives both playfully innocent and those plagued by regret and melancholic remembrance. inlandish is a masterful album from two musical masters. Highly recommended.

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