Chris Russell, Frozen

Inspired by winter, Chris Russell offers up Frozen, a suite of rich, beatless pieces that capture seasonal sensations, from the glitter of light on crisp new snow to the rasp and crack of ice underfoot. There’s a very pleasing completeness at work here, a circular journey from smooth ambient sounds and relaxing pads to edgier sonic swatches and textures and then back again, that makes the disc absolutely ideal for long-term looping. Russell opens the disc with “Aurora,” the first note of which is a long-held pad that appropriately rises and shimmers. It is, simply, a stunning way to start. The softer section of Frozen continues through the next three tracks, with “Tundra” showing the first real signs of a change in feel. The glimmer is still there, but the shift, subtle as it is, can be felt as well as heard, frost coming in at the edges of the sound. From there Russell enters intriguing territory, beginning with “Numb,” the atmosphere turning relentlessly cold and starkly experimental as he culls groans, crackles and snarls from his gear, effectively cutting the listener off from the earlier, lighter touch of the disc. In spots, particularly during the title track, Russell conjures up strong isolationist sensations. The trick here, of course, is to make it all seem like part of the continuous whole and not some errant, interruptive offshoot. Russell pulls it off neatly, then rewards the listener with the clean, graceful “Slowly Drifting” to bring warmth back out of the iciness, and to end the journey by connecting, flawlessly, with the start. There’s a meditative quality at work here, even in the grittier sections, which pays compliment to the quality of and thoughtfulness behind Russell’s compositions. I like this disc more with every listen. Frozen is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.

Available from relaxedMachinery.

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