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Reviews 02-20-2005 

 

A Whisper in the Thunder

by Tom Griesgraber

Visit Tom Griesgraber's website

A Whisper in the Thunder is the first release on Spotted Peccaryís new subdivision label called O3e Music and from the sounds of this one Iím sure it will not be the last. Tom is joined on this release by Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and the California Guitar Trio (Bert Lams, Paul Richards, Hideyo Moriya) who help Tom shine all the more in this stunning debut. Tom composed and produced all the material you hear on this CD and you might be surprised to learn that Tom does not play as much guitar on this CD as you might think from first listen but rather an instrument called the Chapman Stick which he discovered after watching a performance by Tony Levin.  Tom decided after seeing Tony Levin play the Chapman Stick that he was going to switch from the guitar and master this new instrument.  Judging from what he shows us on this CD he is well on his way to being a master of the Chapman Stick. 

The Chapman Stick is better defined by those who know it better but suffice it to say that the appearance is similar to a long stick with strings that you play with both hands sort of like a piano instead of the traditional guitar where one hand plucks the strings while the other fingers the frets. For an interesting little Quicktime video that will explain it visit this page and then explore the site if you desire to know more. http://www.stick.com/method/ 

Tom takes us through 9 tracks on this CD with each one showing that he is more than capable as a musician and a composer to bring his music to life using this new found instrument. The longest track on this collection of music is 9:14 but that is not typical of the rest of the songs on this CD. Most of the songs are right around 4-5 minutes in length. I would not consider this a bad thing as you get a chance to hear more of what Tom does best which is make the Chapman Stick speak his musical language. After listening to this CD completely through a few times now I would venture to say that there is not a weak track in the set.  

The more I listened to Tomís playing the more it reminded me of another artist on Narada that I have listened to in the past when I wanted to hear some great guitar playing. Billy McLaughlinís CD Out of Hand is an echo of the style of music that Tom Griesgraber has created on A Whisper in the Thunder. Some of the standout tracks from Tomís CD are 77 Times which offers us a light an airy piece that has a laid back groove feel to the music while Tomís playing is precise and evokes a joyful response from the listener.  Another fantastic piece is the track called El Prado which shows you exactly how precise the Chapman stick can be in the hands of a master player. Each and every string resonates with a clear and distinct tone that reminds one of the precision of a classical guitarist and yet the melodies and the rhythms explore those areas between jazz, new age and ambient.  The most atmospheric track on the CD would probably be The Frozen Ocean which opens with what sounds like the wind blowing across a barren expanse that in my mind creates visuals of an arctic climate. The music builds with waves of sound breaking upon the frozen shore that in some respects reminded me of Craig Padillaís work Vostok. Near the end of the piece we get Tomís instrument wailing out of the cold and the wind and then it slides right into the next song Victorís Chase. Very nice.  

All in all this CD offers the listener a wide range of listening experiences from light and airy to expansive, dark and cold. All of the music is a tribute to the compositional skills of Tom Griesgraber and his abilities to bring it all together using the Chapman stick as his main tool. This may have been Tomís first effort on this new label from Spotted Peccary and the first for the label as well but it has made an impression on my mind that the label stands for quality music which is evident in Tomís playing. If you are looking for great guitar CD that moves easily between a variety of styles then A Whisper in the Thunder is the CD for you. Recommended.

Reviewed by Michael Foster

 

Silver

by Thom Brennan

Visit Thom Brennan's website

 Like the misty looking trees on the cover of Thom Brennanís latest album Silver, this CD is filled with music that allows the listener to drift into and out of the mist that surrounds these compositions. Thomís musical environments captivate you with the coolness of mist and creates a lush sound that hugs you like a deep fog on a summerís morning. At its heart is the deep resonance that forms the foundation of Thomís music but it is also filled with the sparkle of wings as the synths create several layers of sounds that hover just above the supporting deep tones allowing the listener to float in the currents. This music has purpose though as it takes the listener forward through the ever changing sonic landscape that he has created here and allows you to absorb the palette of sounds that comprise Silver.  

There are a total of 8 tracks on Silver with the title song Silver having 6 parts and two other songs rounding out the collection.  This CD was composed and performed by Thom Brennan and was recorded at the Raingarden in Seattle around 2003-2004. Silver is a CD that features delicate synths that float on the edge of consciousness and that ebb and flow as the CD progresses from beginning to end. It has a calming effect on the listener as you are drawn into this peaceful terrain that undulates with delicate rhythms, otherworldly sensibilities and subtle sequences. Thom has skillfully crafted the music on Silver to take the listener progressively and deliberately along a path that allows this musical adventure to express its unique character on a sonic landscape that will not soon leave your mind.

The final track of the CD called Afterglow is a somber and deep song that ends this CD on a reflective note. The atmosphere is dense and the deep underlying tones take on more significance as the storytelling comes to a close. Afterglow is most definitely a part of the whole but its somber and brooding nature allow the listener some time to reflect on where they have been and what they have seen along the way. Thom has created a rich and complex soundscape to end this journey and bring the listener back down to earth before the music fades away.  Even though this track comes at the very end of the journey it is one of my favorites and I found myself hitting the back button on my CD player to give it a few extra plays during the review process.  

Silver is one of those CDís that you can put on in the background and listen to over and over again without ever reaching the point where it becomes repetitive or tiresome. Thomís passion for his music is clearly audible in every track and his choices of arrangement are flawless. Thom is a highly talented individual and this professionalism permeates Silver as a whole.  From the opening of track one with its light and airy feeling to the dense atmospheric finale on the last track, this CD  is one that is well worth having in your collection. Thom once again displays his musical sensibilities for all to see and Silver is the excellent result of this labor. Recommended.

Reviewed by Michael Foster

 

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