Forrest Smithson: Dreaming Time

smiths_dreamYou can probably guess from title of this release what its overall tone is, and for the most of the first of its four tracks, you’d be right. While Forrest Smithson never strays too far from the standard equation of setting slowly arcing pads off to drift against and through one another, he wisely infuses some of his passages with understated sequenced beats, field recordings and richer textures for a fuller ambient experience. All in all, it’s a calm and meditative hour, and each of the tracks is of sufficient length on their own to allow you to slip in and get lost. Headphone listening makes the most of Smithson’s attention to detail, but it’s a nice open-air listen as well, and loops easily. It’s not long before you’re deep in the sounds of Part I, the longest of the suite, floating along on the ambient structures. The change in this piece is handled with perfect subtlety; a quiet shuffling sound leaks in at the periphery and resolves itself into a rhythm. Smithson keeps it dialed back so that it remains an effective texture, something that reaches you without intruding on the flow. So there’s Dreaming Time‘s allure, a well-executed and never heavy-handed manipulation of tone and texture. Part II kicks off in a spacemusic sort of zone, with a light, hand-percussion-style rhythm already in play. It finds its way into a section where a cool sequencer riff imparts a classic electronic touch over a pad structure. Again, the new feel eases, makes itself at home in your head, and then you’re back to just chilling with the flow. Part III shifts the feel somewhat by showing up with a suspenseful tone and its share of shadowy imagery. It’s heightened by Smithson’s use of a creepy, sing-song arpeggio running up and down over the proceedings–not to mention the sudden, cutting caw of crows. Perhaps this is where our dreams get a mite uncomfortable, but we’re still deep in it. Part IV begins by carrying the resonant unease, with ringing temple bells and choral pads leading us back the way we came. Light breaks slowly, birds chirp, there are children’s voices, and we come around to the classic ambient space where we began. I’m not crazy about the voice recordings here; I feel that they pull focus a bit, but it’s a very minor quibble since they don’t last long. What does work is the feel of a fully formed journey coming to a close. Smithson makes each piece here its own entity but there is a nice tonal through-line that connects one to the next. Ambient fans will find a lot to like here.

Available from the artist’s web site.

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