I last reviewed Christopher Alvarado in his Twilight Tranmissions guise. That disc was an aggressively dark affair, so when I received Translucence I prepped myself for more of the same. But Alvarado is one of those artists who can switch up identities and approaches and make them work. What you get in Translucence is music that retains a distinct edge of shadow throughout, but trends more toward ambient spaces lightened in spots by Alvarado’s rich, Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar. After two tracks of excellent grey-scale driftwork, including the mildly haunted flow of “Passage,” along comes “Fire Above the Desert Mesa” and the first major helping of that guitar. Coming out of “Passage,” the rich and solid tones of the strings are a startlingly pleasant surprise. The guitar sings over ghostly vocals and washes of sound. That Spanish flair brings layers of drama to the song. It’s my favorite track here. Alvarado smoothly throttles down into the comparative quiet of “Marbled Mask” before heading into the ominous tribal tones of “Ascension of Silence.” This is another great example of the near-dark tonal shadings that make Translucence so interesting. The sound is soft, perfect ambient pads, but the feel of the thing hovers at dusk, the drums working to ground it. It’s one of those tracks (and there are plenty here) where you just listen to the way the layers work; you take in how much is going on. The stretch that covers “Solace” and “Arcades of Light” showcase Alvarado’s slightly lighter side. “Solace” drifts along with title-relevant ease, synth pads appropriately breathy and broad; “Arcades…” pulls out all the New Age stops; Alvarado’s guitar is joined by softly whistling flute and lush piano in a work that’s calming and beautiful. Diversity is the hallmark of Translucence, and it’s diversity that moves along logically. Dark becomes light at the right time, smoothness picks up beats and textures right when it needs to. This is a must-listen disc from Christopher Alvarado.
Available from We Are All Ghosts.