Ron Geesin: Roncycle1: The Journey Of A Melody
Tonefloat Records

Though Ron Geesin began work on the album in 1986—The Journey Of A Melody indeed—the album title could just as easily be used in reference to the labyrinthine melodies of the music contained therein. Geesin, of course, will always be remembered first and foremost for his contributions to Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother, which he famously co-wrote and orchestrated, but that hardly constitutes the sum-total of his work. So why did the new release take so long to see the light of day? In the composer's own words, “the reason that it has all taken so long is that, as it grew, it frightened me so much that I had to walk away for long periods.” Technical issues complicated matters too, as parts of the work had to be transferred from original tape to computer, a process which, for Geesin, began to make everything seem “overwhelmingly complicated.” A saviour of sorts turned up in the personage of Mark Ayres (known for his contribution to the BBC's Dr. Who) whose help with final arrangements brought the twenty-five-year exodus to a close.

A work of multiple moods, Geesin's complex, fifty-one-minute opus unfolds as an uninterrupted travelogue restlessly rolling through sixteen related locales. Many of the pieces are vignette-length but nevertheless jam-packed with intricate detail; the arrangements are multi-layered and the melodic patterns maze-like in complexity, sometimes so much so they not only suggest affinities to the kind of music released by Steve Martland a numer of years ago but also prog compositions from decades past. In places it sounds as if Geesin has used synthetic means to simulate a mini-orchestra of strings, woodwinds, and horns. Offsetting that synthetic dimension are sounds of harpsichord, vibes, and flute that humanize the music with their natural presence. Some Floyd-like touches surface during the album—the inclusion of speaking voices, the most obvious—but RonCycle1: The Journey Of A Melody is most definitely Geesin's baby, and an eccentric one it is, too. The mood is set right off by “Tuning Crystals” with its hyperactive flow of staccato piano, vibes, voice, and synthesizer patterns. “Under the Heat” features call-and-response between a blustery trombone and voice effects, “Wispy Mist” presents a hazy meander of piano sprinkles and wordless vocals, and “Whether the Weather” alternates low-pitched horns with multi-layered speaking voices blathering on about—what else?—the weather. Other tracks feature rapid dulcimer-like picking (“A Musing”), radio voices speckled with static (“Radio Fume”), and freewheeling big-band jazz that's a tad reminiscent of what Matthew Herbert might produce with similar materials (“Cellar Fall”). Geesin's album is like a complex click mechanism that never stops for breath until the album's final track, “Caught,” brings it to rest with a simple coda featuring ukelele, whistling, and voice. Listeners familiar with Geesin's output might hear his so-called “monster from the deep” as a work that references his career in a single statement, with everything from bold neo-orchestral settings to folk and prog rock spotchecked along the way. Those less familiar with his work will nevertheless be able to enjoy the ride for the scenic and kaleidoscopic trip that it is.

February 2011