Just when I had gotten used to Chris Russell as a purveyor of deep, far-reaching drones and abstract atmospheres, doesn’t he go and change it up on me with the warm, textured and intricate creations at play on Bloom? This release shows a great side of Russell’s extensive and constantly developing talent. Bloom is the most dynamic release I’ve heard from Russell. It moves from slow and deep to upbeat and intriguing, always packing a tonal warmth and, in many spots, a light sense of play. Most importantly, he shows that he can readily handle his style switch-ups. The quiet side is here, of course. The opener, “Dahlia,” courses in on classic arcing synth pads underscored with a bass rumble you can feel. Listen to the hush of rain that paints the backdrop for slow drones and notes in “Lilac.” This is a gorgeous ambient piece that glides in and out of your subconscious and showcases Russell’s excellent use of field recordings on this release. You hear them as well in “Orchid, ” mixed into its hesitant, almost yawning set of pads and chords. The piece reveals itself slowly, a blossom opening at first light. Russell ripples the sound in places, adding texture and interest. A superbly impressionistic piece, its imagery quite full and rich. Russell show his energetic side with “Phlox,” which bounces around with a metallic reverb that’s about the hookiest thing I’ve heard in a while. Listen beneath it, though–a long, passive drone stretches out as a neutral soundbed. Russell knits the two together and manages to give each equal importance in the flow. Bloom ends with “Allium,” which begins with a big, rising drone, its bass rumble (less tactile than in “Dahlia” but still quite present) fading slightly as the piece moves. It feels very open and deep, and subtly changes tone a couple of times before coming to a whispering close.
I’ve enjoyed Chris Russell’s music since I first found out about him, and I have to say that Bloom has quickly become my favorite of his works. There is an evolution in process here, one that ensures Russell’s place as an ambient artist to watch. Bloom is intelligent, elegantly crafted, and a pleasure to revisit time and again.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.