I didn’t expect, when I first started up Dan Pound’s new release, Cocoon, that I’d find myself coursing along alternate currents of hushed and chilled ambient, Native American-influenced meditations, old-school sequencer runs and smiling grooves that gave a quick nod to, of all things, Enigma. But all these elements are here and they come together in a virtually effortless flow. I have to admit that at first listen I was slightly put off by Pound’s occasional use of dense synth drumbeats that felt a little too “techno”–or, more accurately, too dull of a sound given everything else at play. Over repeat listens, however, they seemed to slot themselves somewhat more comfortably into place in the overall experience and I got what I typically get from Pound: a great ride that I come back to frequently. The title track begins the disc with gurgles and sighs, the mix of bubbling sequencer over long pads. Pound rides the dynamics across the piece’s 15-minute stretch, interweaving light string sounds in quieter moments, emboldening the pads to a grumbling thickness, adding gentle nature sounds and, in the closing two minutes or so, dropping in a beat (again, the bass surprisingly heavy in comparison). The next two tracks, “Starting to Change” and “Life Stages,” work in the Native American flute. In “Starting…” it”s paired simply against a club-ish backbeat. In the longer “Life Stages,” it’s befriended by a laid-back lounge feel and accented with chanting vocals. “Life Stages” is another of the long tracks here, so a shift is expected. It comes halfway in when Pound dismisses the beat for a calm stretch. When it returns–heavier–it brings along a bass pulse and twinkling electronics. (Cue your embedded Enigma memories.) A final shift comes in the last three minutes as shadows fall and Pound takes to the didgeridoo. Murky drifts, chanting vocals and the throaty, echoing curl of the didge distinctly change the feeling, “Transmutate” is a cloying undulation of sound, a bit of hold-your-breath darkness that is Pound at his most abstract. It ushers the listener into the last pair of tracks where the tone is definitely easier. “Emerge” is the old-school tribute here, an uptempo sequencer ride that lays down a cool base over which Pound floats more flute. (In spots the two seem a touch less harmonious, but it passes.) It’s a great choice coming out of “Transmutate,” this track instantly proving lighter, the effect amplified by the comparison. The disc closes with the cleansing, joyful,12-minute-long “Release.” Sweeping, classic ambient washes start it off, calm pads and windy rushes. A whistling melody arcs high overhead. Strong spacemusic overtones run through this one. Sit quietly in the closing minutes and let Pound’s structures carve themselves around you, the sound simplifying and silencing. Truly the best track here.
Although Cocoon is the first Dan Pound disc I haven’t immediately dropped totally into and loved, it has definitely stated its case across repeat listens. Its strong points decidedly outweigh what small quibbles I might have with Dan’s choice of percussion. A good addition to a fine catalog of ambient music.
Available from Dan Pound’s web site.