Because it is my policy not to review music I buy for myself, I have never had a chance to write about Patrick O’Hearn. Which is a shame, because I enjoyed his work back in the Private Music days, before losing track of him for a number of years, only rediscovering his superb and gentle art when I bought Beautiful World and Slow Time. But, again, it hadn’t been sent for review, so I didn’t write about them. (They’re excellent discs. Go find them.) Which made me all the more pleased when Transitions arrived in my mailbox and I could finally review some Patrick O’Hearn.
O’Hearn’s string of excellence remains unbroken with this new release. These New Age instrumentals draw a lot of strength and beauty from a well-practiced hesitancy in their playing. Comfortable spaces between notes fill with meaning and emotion in the near-silence; you wait expectantly for the next moment. Listen to the short and stunning “Courage,” where O’Hearn plays piano with such halting grace that at times it feels as though he’s simply unsure of his ability to go on. Throughout the disc, soft backdrops set the scene and wash the sound-images in hazy dusk-colored hues. These are pieces that, played quietly, augment the space and alter the mood, yet show their depth and complexity given a close listen. While every song here has a lot to offer, there are moments to which I gravitate as a listener. The shifting tones of “Playground” puts me in mind of the Tim Story/Roedelius collaboration Inlandish; that same smooth combination of a beautiful, straightly played melody set against slightly whimsical, warbling electronics to effortlessly convery the tone. I can’t get enough of O’Hearn’s rich, round fretless bass sounds, which are at their finest in “Restless,” which migrates so smoothly from a near-sinister creep to an uplifting and open vista, and the almost lullaby-soft closer, “Frontier Revisited,” where O’Hearn flicks out subtle touches of jazz flair. “Flight” is filled with a sweet, heart-rending sadness that’s amplified by the simplicity of O’Hearn’s playing–clean, high piano notes walking single file with dancer-esque precision. And then there’s Bryan Johanson’s classical guitar taking center stage in “Well-Mannered” to deliver a mournful story one beautifully picked syllable at a time–again framed against the bass. From the dramatic pacing of the first track, “Reaching Land,” to the closing moments of “Frontiers Revisited,” there’s barely a moment on Transitions that doesn’t run a chance of taking your breath away. A perfect wind-down disc, one you’ll come back to often just to hear its beauty again. Transitions is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD for New Age fans in particular, and a must-hear for anyone who simply loves very, very good music.
Available at iTunes and Amazon via Patrick O’Hearn’s web site.