Little Greyhound Music
Dreamtime (from wind instrumentalist and keyboard player Cornell Kinderknecht and drummer/percussionist Martin McCall is pleasingly paradoxical. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I heard an album that has so much percussion and rhythms (some of them frenetic in tempo) that still managed to be so calming and so soothing to jangled nerves, without revving up the listener and inducing him or her to get up and dance. I've listened to this superb recording at least ten times and I still don’t understand how these two masterful musicians did it. I suppose at this point I should just relax and enjoy the beautiful, serene, ride. And it is a wonderfully relaxing journey into a land of assorted world influences and lovely flowing melodies (the latter quality which Kinderknecht exhibited on his last solo release, Nightfall).
It's important for me to list the array of instruments that each artist plays so you can appreciate each of these performers' virtuosity. Kinderknecht's primary instruments are of the wind variety, and on Dreamtime he plays Native flutes, soprano sax, bansuri flute, English horn, Anasazi flute, and keyboards (and he utilizes his keyboards masterfully!). McCall's list is even longer and includes djembe, shakers, taiko drum, tom-toms, electronic timpani, cymbals, gong, bells, tambourine, methal, drum head, udu, bass drums, and doumbek. Phew! I wonder what his studio looks like!
Eight of the twelve tracks feature Kinderknecht playing Native flute, so it's obvious that many of the album's songs have a Native influence present, but there is no way I would describe this as strictly a Native flute fusion release. It’s not just because Kinderknecht doesn't fall back solely on Native elements in these songs, but it's also about how McCall uses non-Native instruments in laying down his rhythms and beats. One could (and perhaps should) label this music as cross-cultural, since the wind instruments and the percussion/drums are not always geographically aligned.
Two things struck me as I delved into the music on Dreamtime. One was how adeptly Kinderknecht incorporates his keyboard textures and embellishments. It's textbook in how he fleshes out the overall sound of the songs (all but one track features some keyboards). The artist knows just how to balance these soundscape colorings into the mix so that they are heard but never dominate. That's a true artisan skill. The other, and stronger, sonic element is the ultra-deft approach to mixing so that McCall's vast assortment of percussion and drums never overpower the overall meditative/serene mood of the music. It's almost uncanny and I don’t know if I have ever heard anything like it in all my years of reviewing.
I'm not sure trying to describe individual tracks would adequately convey how special Dreamtime is, but I can at least attempt to paint a written picture. "Big Sky" features a pensive Native flute line buoyed by swirling synthesizer shadings and propelled by a rapid tempo drum beat on dejembe. "One Summer" has the drum beats played on doumbek in a sedate, almost mournful tempo, while the lead flute is held by an Indian bansuri, which lends the song an overall air of mystery and the exotic. On "Marble Falls," McCall flexes his musical muscles and incorporates an assemblage of taiko drums, tom-toms, electronic timpani, cymbals and gongs, while Kinderknecht returns to the Native flute and layers in even more pronouncedly swirling ambient-ish keyboards. At this point in the recording, adroit listeners will clue in to how these two artists have meshed their talents to yield a truly symbiotic listening experience in how the melody lines intertwine with the layers of rhythms and beats. The album takes a celestial turn on "Voyager" as Kinderknecht's soprano sax floats above layers of spacy synthesizer soundsculptures and shimmering textures with McCall's subdued taiko drums pounding out a subtle slow-tempo beat. Kinderknecht goes solo on "Solitude" playing both Native flute and English horn with piano accompaniment as well as orchestral string embellishments. "Dragonfly" hints at Indian motifs with bansuri flute and tamboura drones while ethnic rhythms beat out a sensual undertone.
Dreamtime is a special recording - a true original in how it marries assorted ethnic percussion with wind instruments and synthesizers to craft an album that manages to calm the disquiet mind with a unique blend of melody and rhythm. Kinderknecht and McCall exhibit an uncommon symmetry in their shared musical vision and the result is an album that would be ideal for massage, relaxation, yoga, or even just…well, waking dreaming.