Ambient musician Mario Grönnert releases his first full-length work, From Land to Light, and in doing so comes across as a thought-provoking artist who actively strives to avoid simple characterization. The disc mixes a couple of cold, unwelcoming atmospheres into what’s otherwise a very delicate and graceful set of New Age-leaning vignettes. You’re brought into Grönnert’s vision with the chill winds of “Inland,” five minutes of moaning drones, quietly ghoulish sighs, and a heartbeat-like pulse. It’s effectively off-putting, and, had you not read this review first, would certainly make you think you’d found a new dark ambient artist. But then comes its follow-up, “The Plateau,” which is something of an Eno-esque piece with tinkling keys and wafting ambient pads. “Fading Shoreline” is another minimalist piece built on the sound of a hissing wind and tap-tap percussion, and then we’re into the gentle electric piano composition, “Long Term Transmission.” This is a soft-edged piece where string sounds draw curved supporting lines around the melody, which simply takes its time in making its point. At this point, Grönnert seems to decide to stick mostly with the approachable stuff, and it’s a pleasure. “Another Blue Day” is a beautiful ballad with a slightly sad feel. I like the way the last couple of notes strive hopefully upward and then just–stop. “Message from a Dream” has a Mark Isham feel in the mix of emotional melody and quieted back-up in strings and bass. And the closer, “Mirrors Shine,” rings with its own slowly described poetry, echoing electric piano notes marking the path of a marginally melancholy tale.
From Land to Light seems like it might have benefited from the excision of the two darker tracks. Even the one remaining track that takes a slightly more experimental route, “Pathway,” is lighter, electronic notes reverberating and bouncing over a slow, droning backdrop. Grönnert is an excellent musician, capable of drawing real feeling out of his compositions. There’s a deep thoughtfulness to them, a perfectly established line from inner feeling to outward expression, and it draws the listener in. On top of that, there’s a lot of sonic detail at work here. This is a nice casual listen, but Grönnert does a great job with the small sounds that add depth. From Land to Light works a lot of impact into its scant 45 minutes, and should leave the listener expecting even more from Mario Grönnert.
Available from Conga Records.