Spotlight 6

17 Pygmies
Adrian Aniol
Artificial Memory Trace
B. Schizophonic / Onodera
Blue Fields
The Boats
Canyons of Static
Fennesz + Sakamoto
Marcus Fischer
Les Fragments de la Nuit
Daniel Thomas Freeman
From the Mouth of the Sun
Karol Gwózdz
Mark Harris
Tatsuro Kojima
Robert Lippok
Maps and Diagrams
Message To Bears
The New Law
Octave One
Lasse-Marc Riek
Jim Rivers
Dennis Rollins
Jason Urick
Windy & Carl

Compilations / Mixes
DJ-Kicks: The Exclusives
Future Disco Volume 5
King Deluxe Year One
Phonography Meeting
Pop Ambient 2012

Matthew Dear
Fovea Hex
Kurzwellen 0
Pascal Savy

Blue Fields: Ghost Story
Haunt Music

Let's give credit where credit's due. Canadian expatriates Scott Monteith, Mike Shannon, and Adam Marshall have all blazed innovative trails during their respective tenures in the electronic music game, with Monteith, of course, having brought numerous Deadbeat recordings into being and Shannon and Marshall the brains behind Cynosure Recordings as well as individual recording projects in their own right. Shannon's now got a new iron in the fire, one called Blue Fields, a trio venture with Japanese guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto (known for his I'm Not a Gun recordings with John Tejada) and Fadila, a German-Turkish singer who's previously appeared with Shannon on Wagon Repair and Cynosure. Convening in Berlin, the three pooled their talents and came up with something rather different from anything they or probably anyone else has released before. Which is not to imply that Ghost Story is an unqualified success—it isn't—but to credit the trio for at least trying to bring something different to the table. In some ways, Blue Fields can be heard as a natural extension of the innovative explorations Shannon put forth on his 2005 ~scape album Possible Conclusions for Stories that Never End. Imagine some unusual amalgam of ambient electronica, soulful microhouse, and lounge jazz and you're on the right track.

“Open Your Eyes,” a fluid, atmospheric intro of electric piano and textural guitar shadings, accurately hints that the recording will be more dreamy and meditative than straight-up dance-based. The Blue Fields style is heard at its best during “Sequenced Love Affair,” which overlays a funky, downtempo house groove—its little hiccup pointing in a deep house direction—with Fadila's smokey voice and Nishmoto's ethereal playing. The laid-back flow of “New Shade of Blue” brings a bit of an I'm Not a Gun post-rock feel into the mix, until, that is, Fadila appears to push it more into a subtly swinging soul-funk direction. Strong, too, are “Carmens Ghost,” a similarly potent exercise in jazz-tinged funk, and “Seven x Seven,” wherein Shannon's bass-throbbing shuffle gives the guitarist ample room to maneuver. By way of contrast, “Eternal Fields” effectively captures Shannon and Nishimoto's talent for crafting a lush, slow-motion instrumental reverie. Throughout the recording, Shannon provides the solid foundation, his focus on fashioning rich backdrops and tight drum programming for the other two to emote against. Admittedly, Fadila is a lesser presence on the album, given that the primary focus is on the instrumental material created by Shannon and Nishimoto, who are, in fact, credited as the album's co-writers and co-producers.

But as stated, Ghost Story is hardly a perfect album. There are less enthralling cuts, such as “Bones and Butterflies,” a slow, heavily atmospheric setting that drags a little too sleepily, and “The Hive (Nothing to Hide),” which is weakened by a too-long eight-minute running time and a guitar spotlight that verges on noodling. And, more a curio than anything else, “Best Served Cold” modernizes a riff on old-school acoustic jazz trio playing with ambient electronic effects to mildly interesting effect. At thirteen tracks and sixty-six minutes, the album's also overlong and would make a better and more focused impression were it to check in it a leaner fifty. Arriving as it does late in the game, the penultimate piece “That's What It Was,” for example, drags more than it otherwise might had the atmospheric setting appeared on a shorter collection.

February 2012