Darshan Ambient: Lingering Day
Michael Allison's tenth Darshan Ambient release on the Spotted Peccary label presents a compelling argument for the ongoing vitality of the decades-long project. Though it's possible there's an album concept in play, it's not clear to me what it is, to be honest; instead, Lingering Day more registers as a stylistically diverse collection of stand-alone productions, though that shouldn't be construed as a criticism. If the fourteen-track release (sixteen in the non-CD version) does nothing more than present many different Darshan Ambient sides, it impresses no less for doing so.
On production grounds alone, the recording impresses: Allison composed, performed, recorded, and produced the music himself, and his prowess as a multi-instrumentalist is evident without being overly self-indulgent. The quality of the songwriting is top-notch, too, as are the arrangements, all of which reflect a refined sensibility and a painterly command of tone colour. The typical piece sees guitar and/or piano utilized as the lead melodic voice, synthetic textures deployed for atmospheric sweetening, and bass and drums included in about half the tracks for extra punch.
With its pristine melodies undergirded by an insistent rhythm track, “Snowflake” serves notice from the album's first moment that Lingering Day won't be an album-length set of wallpaper music; as punchy as the clicking beat is, however, the piano-centered production soothes the ear with hushed vocal textures and silken atmosphere. Five tracks in, the aptly titled “Mover” likewise animates its radiant synthetic swirl with a beat pattern that gallops at a rapid clip.
If some pieces assert themselves boldly, others do so using gentler means. Allison repeatedly demonstrates his talent for creating pretty, haunting reveries designed to induce a swoon (“Silver,” “White Calm”), and he's as adept as his Spotted Peccary colleagues at crafting beautifully rendered ambient soundscapes, the shimmering, guitar-laced “The Seven Sleepers” as strong an example of the form as any.The recording also isn't without a surprise or two, the most obvious being “Arc of Angels,” a breezy, lyrics-based song with vocals by Allison that suggest a slightly less raspy Peter Gabriel (not a bad thing); even when working within the conventions of pop song form, Allison brings an artfulness to his material, in this case in an arrangement distinguished by counterpoint between the lead vocal and background harmonies. Something of a jazzy post-rock and even trip-hop vibe seeps into a few tracks as well, “The Lost Hunter” and “The Seven Sleepers Part 2” cases in point (the latter revealing a particular dexterity on Allison's part as a drummer), while “Bee's Fade” finds Allison venturing into the kind of tribal-ambient territory we associate with someone like Steve Roach. There's something seemingly for everyone, in other words, on this generously packed, fourteen-track release.