Matt Borghi Review – Bloom by Chris Russell

14th June 2012

I want to be careful not to be trite or overly hyperbolic with this write-up when talking about Chris Russell’s Bloom. However, I find myself caught in that place where I can experience the music, sonically, but then I have a comparable experience emotionally. That’s one of the areas where drone ambient music has challenged me the last few years. I like a drone as much as next, average ambient music fan, but at times the contemporary ambient music scene has become overly droney (full disclosure: I find that my own ambient compositions have gone this way at times, but I’ve released less and worked more to find that sweet spot where sonic and emotional experience meet…).

Because of this, I’ve found myself spending more time with the classics of the genre, Steve Roach, Brian Eno, Harold Budd as well as other lesser-known artists and touchstone releases like: Diatonis’ Landscape of a Dream and Jason Sloan’s The Space Between Beginnings. With Bloom, Russell moves into a similar territory as those artists did with those recordings and ties them together excellently in the thematic content of a nature-inspired work. It’s this last part where Russell has truly done a superb job of addressing the feeling, the sentiment, and the organic quality of nature, sonically, without relying heavily on gimmicky field recordings of mountain streams and babbling brooks, as is prominent in many recordings that attempt to evoke a similar sentiment; I offer big kudos for that. At the same time, though, the field recordings are there, but they act as a timbral addition meant to add texture and nuance rather than a quick compositional shortcut.

And because I’ve never been one to go track by track and evaluate in that way, this write-up wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t address some of the interesting electronic timbres that Russell has injected into this collection of tracks. There are some fine synth pads, and some field recordings, but peppered into all of that in a way that I can only really compare to some of the work on Air’s first full-length, Moon Safari, there are elements reminiscent of Wendy Carlos’ Moog work, ala Switched On Bach, or Tangerine Dream where a monosynth-like tone is used to create an interesting and ascending quality that feels downright transcendental when used to proper effect, something that Russell does often.

Finally, the last really nice element of Bloom for me are the photographs, available on the release page, that Russell has included with this release. For me, personally, having imagery, moving or static, that accompanies recorded material intensifies the listening experience because where music often falls short is in its ability to appeal to other senses, the imagery helps with that. I highly recommend this release and I’m eager to listen to some of Russell and Relaxed Machinery’s other work.

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