Illusions and Aetheric Architecture

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Wildering Haven

Crafted using an astounding list of electronic instruments from Moog, Sequential, Nord and modular synthesizers, each piece moves fluidly from beat to beat, melody to melody, never staying in one place for long. 'Illusive' refers to a quality of what you're seeing or hearing or where the direction you think the music is going may actually be headed somewhere else.

Illusive whispers about some sort of visual deception, a mirage, a dreamlike image that appears one way at first glance, but upon further reflection, one realizes there is something deeper in there and makes you want to search deeper, to discover what lies within. Kelly David explains, "Illusive refers to a quality of what you're seeing or hearing or where the direction you think the music is going may actually be headed somewhere else. Perhaps this relates to the state of the world during the time of this recording: we weren't so sure of many things.” Illusive offers a journey that is satisfying to the listener, revealing a vision of some new territory ahead.

In high school, Kelly was heavily influenced by the music of Frank Zappa. Through Frank Zappa interviews in magazines and newspapers, Kelly learned about the music of Stockhausen, Varese and other 20th century masters who provided a first direction to Kelly in electronic music. After a move “out west” to Denver in 1997, Kelly met Tucson’s ambient and electronic music master, Steve Roach. They subsequently developed a personal and professional kinship. 

Gentle and mysterious electronic instrumental music,Illusive flows through various terrains and landscapes, responding to elemental changes and discoveries along the way, accomplishing thorough and ultimately dramatic transformations in the form, appearance, and character of the soundscape. What you will hear will sometimes be something that might not be what it seems to be, just when the view of a jungle plateau is coming into focus it might soon disappear and be replaced with something even more complex and inexplicable. His first album with Spotted Peccary Music, Meditation in Green (2019) is a continuation of a musical journey that began with Kelly’s independently released first album, Broken Voyage (2002), mixed and produced by Steve Roach. On his second independent album, Angkor (2006), the sounds came from a first reflection of Asian travels and deep fascination, both academic and experiential, of the ancient Khmer civilization that dominated SE Asia in the 10th century. Steve Roach mastered Angkor, contributing his sonic treatment to the mixes. After that, for a shared album, The Long Night (2014), is a full-on collaboration with Steve where they worked "side by side" in Kelly’s Denver studio and Steve's Arizona studio, creating a deep work meant for the virtual dead of night. Kelly reflects, "Steve Roach opened the door for me and showed me how to walk through it."

 

From the opening vocal-like phrases to the last crash of the waves, this new album is a voyage of granular organic electronic instrumental music. Illusive has seven tracks and provides an engaging flow, the sonic events constantly change and smoothly lead into new situations and discoveries. There are delicate details, vast quiet spaces and sweeping motion which keeps the listener pleasantly guessing and glowing. The sounds are not natural, with a few exceptions: some birds, some water, and there are probably some more mysterious field recordings hidden in the mix, which any great chef understandably celebrates without revealing all of his kitchen secrets. The most prominent ingredients are calm and curious. By the end of this album, the listener is left with a feeling of quiet uplift, knowing the world renews and a sense of hope will prevail.

The music of Illusive is part of an ongoing process, learning to rotate, scale, skew, transfigure or translate a sonic chorus of disparate elements, a guide for cataloging the ideas about distant intelligent life in the universe, inviting adventurers to traverse the trackless void at will, coming and going between the countless planets. I have a love of expansive time, containing wide, open-voiced chords and things that suggest foreign auditory phantoms, using a technology that lies beyond our horizons, perhaps the technology of para-physical forces.

Kelly David: “This is definitely my pandemic album. I started on the album in March of 2020 and finished a year later. My excursions into my studio became an escape from the uncertainty, fear and madness of the outside world over the last year...this was a translation of the peace I was seeking within myself.”

The musician continues. "The title Illusive is an adjective that derives from 17th century Latin. It means “based on or producing illusion.” As I worked on the music I was aware of shifts in darkness and light, tensions releasing into pleasing harmonies. As I grew closer to the finish, I began to listen to the tracks as a whole concept. I then realized that all of the tracks hung together through this essential peaceful quality that formed the core of each track with a delicate quality I was not consciously aware of during the writing . While I asked musical questions and provided musical answers, an essential quiet and peaceful quality kept pushing through.

"To me, this is certainly an ambient album, although there is quite a lot of movement underneath the ambient. It is always about change. No sound or combination of sounds remain the same for long. There is constant, subtle change. Illusive is an album that many will want to sleep with as the music invites dreaming."

As the project took form, “I began with some predetermined compositional structure for each piece. Mostly, it was a set of harmonic materials, namely a reliance on the subset modes of the major scales. Sometimes I modulated between different harmonic modes in the same piece. The modes often impact the emotional quality of a track as some modes are inherently sad or create a feeling of longing.

“In writing Illusive, I relied on a more complex harmonic structure than my previous album. I focused on the harmonic modes, both major and minor, to form the unifying harmonic structure. In several pieces, I wove several different modes into the same track. Also I deliberately created more space between sections, allowing silence to seep in throughout the album. What is consistent throughout my music is the use of my field recordings, the recorded natural environments range from deep woods recorded at midnight to a wave-pounding subtropical sea shore.

“Once I reached the point in recording the album where I recognized the quiet delicacy in the music, images of impressionist visual art came to mind: distinct and varied colors, often with the softness of water colors and then deeper, darker waters that flowed deep inside the music.”

Although illusions distort our perception of reality, they are generally shared by most people, thus resulting in fine art. What you will encounter are castles in the air, an array of illusions of hearing, exploring mysterious technologies that allow the composer to construct new worlds inside your headphones. This music invites us to consider the experience of discovering phantom objects and the realization that this entire gigantic gallery is artificial, designed for celebrating curiosity, and showing how to find inspiration for many of our possible futures.

It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false. The ability of the mind to be tricked into believing that a mentally generated world is the "real world" is actually a common, even nightly event. Listening to Illusive, you might be able to see in this soundtrack a resemblance to various different unexplored planets adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, flora, fauna, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills and caverns. The first encounter is with a person or thing that watches or stands as if watching. 

The curtain opens with a choral invocation, majestic vistas loom in the darkness. Gradually forms are suggested and rise from the mist. There are pauses between each sustained swirling paradox of sonic umbraic geography. "Sentinel" (9:20) brings an introduction that transforms from a meditation on stillness into a delicate dance of mystical convocation.

Giuseppe Palione was an Italian classical composer born in Rome in 1781 and died in Paris in 1819; there is a street named after him in Oahu with a vacation house located there. On the grounds of this vacation house there is a salt water pool where some of the music heard on this track was created, "Palione" (9:54). The echoes suggest that this cavern is gigantic and there are various textures and natural features to explore, a bubbling pool of many colors, a vast shimmering expanse, zones of uncertain substance and sensation, clouds of gloom with glitter, gulls floating in dark waters and eventually emerging into forests inhabited by crepuscular avian life forms. 

Distance is a relational measurement of how far apart objects or points are. Our path can be seen from great reaches, providing a deceptive appearance or impression of infinity. There are cycles of activity that rise and fall, there are occasional breezes and passing birds that are unlike anything that I have ever heard before, and then through the furthest trees I can hear the open sea, suggesting blue waters shimmering beneath the brazen sun. "Distance" (7:33) is an illusion of space, which changes as perspective adjusts. As I near the confines of the imaginary forest I see before me, between the grove and the open sea, a broad expanse of meadow land. As I am about to emerge from the shadows of the strange trees, a sight meets my eyes and ignites new wonderment for the beauties in this fantastic expanding landscape.

Energetic vibrations and melodic fragments open into a yet larger chamber which turns out to be a conservatory with remote foghorns and forms of life that are allowed to flourish, beautifully written with satisfying cycles of tension and release. "Garden of the Forgotten" (5:19) is a more vibrant interlude, providing a tender sparkle. The pace of this track allows a bit of contrast to this unhurried journey of discovery. All of these elements are woven throughout.

Go and climb to the top of the trees; up there I thought I saw numerous gaily-plumaged birds that were strange, sitting at the top of the tree talking to one another. "Top of the Trees" (8:03) allows our ears to wander through the green velarium high above, into a canopy where breezes and flocks of flying creatures weave in and out of the leaves and branches. As far aloft as I can see the stems and branches and twigs are smooth and highly polished and filled with brilliant, nameless birds. I call them birds since they are winged, but mortal ears have never rested upon such odd, unearthly shapes, where the phantom blooms cluster thickly upon these strange branches and may not be described in any earthly tongue. Do these exotic steamy tropics have a variety of snowflakes? Something sparkly is decorating the breezes above.

The definition of ether is the sky, used especially when describing electronic signals that travel through the air. "Into The Ether" (12:25) brings a gentle taste of ether, or æther, the mysterious substance once thought to suffuse the universe. This track’s title might suggest something disappearing into nothing, like a specter of pure fantasy. The motion of the music is like a heat mirage, swaying and shimmering in plain sight off in the distance ahead, guarding the facts while lulling the urgencies of the daily hubble-bubble. Through the entire duration of this track there is the sense of a grand piano reverberating continuously, sort of glowing on and on without diminishing, guarding your dreamscape and allowing for a more complete escape.

The final track breaks open the box and leaves clues to follow into new territory, again! Further go our ears, receiving whispered reports of alien lands and never before encountered ways of being. Is the music coming up from the ocean depths or floating down from the distant heavens? I hear the surf on the shore, an oceanic heartbeat. I hear the call and response echoes of electronic cryptids reeling in the trackless regions of interplanetary space. "Northcoast" (15:52) mixes the rise and fall of oceanic planetary life with the distant horns of the angels. Along the way in one place I hear a lonely harmonica coming from somewhere in the caverns below. I find that my senses have been absorbed by inspiring visions of phosphorescent notes from the depths of the earth while looking right up into the night sky over the open waters. Later we discover clouds of artificial cicadas in those oceanic caves.

David finds opportunities for learning from his compositional processes, “I approach each studio session usually with an idea in mind of where I’m going next. It doesn’t always work out. Not every studio session produces something useful. The key is to return to the studio again, to keep searching, pushing, staying open for the accidents that led to something really useful.”

"Once I reached the point in recording the album where I recognized the quiet delicacy in the music, images of impressionist visual art came to mind: distinct and varied colors, often with the softness of water colors and then deeper, darker waters that flowed deep inside the music. I began with some predetermined compositional structure for each piece. Mostly, it was a set of harmonic materials, namely a reliance on the subset modes of the major scales. Sometimes I modulated between different harmonic modes in the same piece. The modes often impact the emotional quality of a track as some modes are inherently sad or create a feeling of longing. Illusive refers to a quality of what you're seeing or hearing or where the direction you think the music is going may actually be headed somewhere else. Perhaps this relates to the state of the world during the time of this recording: we weren't so sure of many things."

With Illusive, the listener finds a sonic sanctuary, appreciating both our natural and synthetic worlds. Illusive is a meditation on the endurance of beauty through troubled times. As these seven pieces morph from melody to melody—traversing stark silences and warm crescendos, cavernous atmospheres and celestial chimes—change is constant, yet graceful.

Mastered by Howard Givens, Illusive is available for physical purchase in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. The CD version of Illusive arrives in a factory sealed 6-panel gatefold package that includes vibrant artwork, liner notes, a 4-page booklet, and artful package design by Daniel Pipitone.

Critical acclaim for the artist's earlier SPM release, Meditation in Green, included Textura magazine writing "masterfully crafted and beautifully realized" while Star's End said "Kelly David produces passages of mystic bliss – where reverberant chords move like slow clouds on the horizon, and glowing tones flex and fade off into a buzz of jungle."

Tracklist:
1 Sentinel
2 Palione
3 Distance
4 Garden of the Forgotten
5 Top of the Trees
6 Into The Ether
7 Northcoast

LINKS

https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/illusive/

https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/kelly-david/

https://kellydavid.bandcamp.com/

https://kellydavid.com/

https://ello.co/robinja56/post/sr8v_pv-axl_azrf1ybr3q

 


Submitted: October 15, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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