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Dan Pound: Return to Other Worlds

September 21, 2012

As other artists have done recently, Dan Pound reaches into his musical closet and blows the dust off 22 tracks from five earlier albums recorded between 2004 and 2006. Remixed and remastered, the pieces on this two-disc retrospective run from guttural tribal ambient to classically soft ambient flows to rhythmic New Age. Pound arranges the pieces to take the listener in and out of these various zones with a sense of narrative. It also imparts, for the new Pound listener, an understanding of the breadth of talent at work here. The first disc sets itself up as tribally themed early on, and sticks with it for much of the disc. Three tracks from the Other Worlds CD kick it off with some spot-on work, with clacking stick percussion, hollow-cave atmospheres and deep chants. The title track from Other Worlds takes it uptempo with cool sequenced beat and snaky, echoing curls of didgeridoo. Three tracks from Return follow; here the tribal feel shifts to more of a world/ethnic flavor, picking up Middle Eastern spice. It’s an interesting way to keep the listen in this sort of electro-shamanic space but to distinguish movement within the journey. The shifting in style continues until we find ourselves in the graceful New Age piano of “Elemental Traces,” the light and airy melody washing off the sandy dust of our prior excursions. Tracks from Door Beyond Time come next, exhibiting a well-balanced blend of spacious ambient and more rich tribal/shamanic vibes. “Thunder Voices” resonates with the feel of potent medicine; big drums and tribal singing fill the space. Pound opens a dark space and ushers us through it in “Beneath This World,” a slow-moving and extremely atmospheric piece that’s eerily lit, its shadows thickly populated with uncertainty. The didgeridoo work here is perfect for the worrisome place Pound is describing. Disc one closes out in fairly dark territory courtesy two ominous tracks from Return. “Last Wave” grinds along on growing percussion and weighty low-end drones, managing to get deeper and murkier as it goes. A great end to the first part.

At the outset, disc two would appear to chart a similar course; the Heart’s Core and Horizon tracks that kick it off have a nice shamanic feel. The drums in “Finding My Way” carve out a hypnotizing rhythm over lush, calming drones. Pound’s voice eases in above the sound–this is a great flow that’s loaded with emotion. Pound bends the flow toward rhythmic electronica with “Horizon’s Edge.” This piece has a very familiar feel that I just can’t put a name to. (The tribal stuff rings with Pound’s influence from Steve Roach, speaking of which.) The second half of this track, the title track from Door Beyond Time, has a wide, cinematic sense that puts me in mind of Jeff Grienke’s later work, or much of the stuff released on Spotted Peccary. It’s got a distinct voice, and it’s talking about some broad, lovely vista. Pound takes the percussion and stuffs it into the distance, which is a great treatment. It’s there, but it takes on a windy, indistinct feel that lets the quieter tones glimmer.  The joyful “Way to Ecstasy” is another world-style piece fueled by uptempo drumming and a high, flute-like melody. Infectiously pleasant! This segues neatly into a stretch of quieter pieces, beginning with the easy downtempo flow of “Heart Into Soul.” This is best described as just a laid-back and beautiful instrumental. Touches of guitar come through, singing in a high, sighing voice, and an unhurried beat keeps time. “Warmth Inside” blends piano with long synth pads in a piece that straddles the line between ambient and New Age. “Last Waltz” is another piece with a familiar sound, a fairly simple and understated, burbling melody that’s absolutely enchanting. “Arrival” from Door Beyond Time closes the set with lush flute over rich pads, a warm and introspective sound.

This review is longer than I prefer to write in most cases, but there is so much going on over the course of Return to Other Worlds, so many tracks that absolutely hit the target and hit it hard, that it’s not easy to avoid wanting to say something about most of them. The tribal stuff is as smoky and serpentine as Roach’s best; the New Age work is vivid and filled with story; and every track is loaded with depth. This is an excellent primer on Pound’s work, and really just a sampling of his prodigious output. But if this two-disc set doesn’t make you a Pound fan, nothing will. A superb release, and a must-listen.

Available from Dan Pound’s web site.

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