Palancar, The Tender Hand of the Unseen

Whenever I listen to Palancar’s music, I am struck by the thought that composer Darrell Burgan must be a very contemplative, complex guy. His music certainly reflects this, always bringing a balanced blend of quiet and unease, soul-calming lightness and spirit-shaking darkness. His latest release, The Tender Hand of the Unseen, gives us more of that mix in a set of tracks that loop perfectly for a very deep listen. Burgan notes that the work is meant to reflect “the redemptive and instructive value of pain, as explained in Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘The Prophet'” and that, due to losing much of the original data in a disc crash, what’s represented here are a set of intermediate mixes. Having listened to the disc a number of times before learning that second tidbit, I have to say that for intermediate mixes they’re quite complete. There’s certainly no lack of emotional connection when you’re adrift on the warm currents of “Sacred Tears” or when the edged shadows of “Seasons of Your Heart” begin to press in on you in the form of subdued, gnashing drones and the wayward clatter of tinny bells. (More than once I have found myself holding my breath in the middle of this, an autonomous reaction to the atmosphere Burgan has crafted.)  Burgan’s sense of balance, following Gibran’s equation, shows itself well in “Bitter Potion.” This track starts as another teeth-clencher, rising up on torturously slow and dark drones punched with a clash of metallic/electronic sound like the fall of a whip. Half way through its 10 minutes it melts into a quieter space that retains sonic burrs at the edges. After enduring the first half, which is a very visceral stretch, the relief of release as Burgan stretches out his sounds is downright tactile. And when Burgan turns his intentions to the more meditative side of things, Tender Hand becomes a salve of calmness and deep ambient builds. The title track is a warm whisper of sound, long pads and high, falling chords blending with easy grace, This is a genuinely stirring, soul-touching piece of music, one of those works that reaches into you and nudges something loose. Warning: introspection may follow. An excellent release from Palancar; he hits his theme perfectly and leaves the listener needing to go through the experience again.

Available from Buddhist on Fire.

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