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Chris Russell & Disturbed Earth, The Approaching Armada

July 18, 2011

This collaborative CD from Chris Russell and Disturbed Earth (aka Dean Richards) is sculpted with amazing patience in big, bold, pad-based forms, enormous chunks of sound that inch inexorably forward. While the duo deftly balance shades of light and dark as the music proceeds, there is always a rich density of sound in constant motion. Elements urge each other along without hurry, describing spacey vistas and immeasurable distances as they spiral slowly past. It’s the interplay between Russell’s soft-synth-based drifts and Richards’ analog tape looping mastery, bringing the disc into a space with distinct ambient overtones, but harshed up to just the right degree with Richards’ sound-manipulating edge. For the most part, the listening is easy, your mind drawn into the sound and held there as it forms around you. “Leaves on Trees” absolutely mesmerizes, the sound pool probably at its deepest. Shimmering pads rise and fall in intensity, the only constant being the impressive, effortless thickness of sound. Its follow-up, “Cold Night,” is a slow-moving, perfect ambient piece, wavering waveforms gliding over each other.  There are challenging moments here as well. “Neon Light” finds its way into some high, harsh tones as its story intensifies. The beginning of “Clutching at Straws” comes at you armed with a full load of dissonance and slightly jumpy textures. In neither case does the noise level detract or feel gratuitous; it’s obviously integral to these pieces, and comes off well. But they’re not the easiest listens here.

Given a deep listen in headphones, the resonance and harmonics at work here take on a very mind-salving, hypnotic quality even as the sonic details make themselves vividly clear. On low volume it will drift into your space and orbit calmly, making changes to your atmosphere. A great outing from these two artists, and a collaboration I’d like to hear more from.

Available from Relaxed Machinery.

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