There is a gallery-walk feel underlying Blur, Chris Russell’s “album slightly out of focus.” These nine pieces, created during a difficult time in his life, are beatless, impressionistic vignettes, each its own emotional slice, its own specific scene, and we move through them looking for a little something of ourselves within. Much of the album carries a dark feel, but you wouldn’t know it from the opening track, “Ardor.” With romantic string sounds and a light orchestral-ambient feel, it suggests we’re traipsing off into light, easily digestible ambient. Not so much. Moving into “Beclouded,” Russell begins leaking grim tones and showing jagged edges. Over the next few tracks his sounds slink and crawl. “Beclouded” has harsh moments that literally growl. “Distort” threatens to lean into dissonance. The title tracks offers a reprise. It’s reminiscent of Roach as it drifts softly past. Certain chords ring with uncertainty—I’m clearly reminded of sounds from Streams and Currents. This 13-minute piece would do nicely looped upon itself for a long, meditative stretch. Later in the release, “Oceans” comes as a surprise, arriving with a uptempo sequencer arpeggio and title-appropriate background sounds. It’s an interesting and comparatively bright wake-up after half an hour in shadow, but slowly bends back the way we’ve come. It leads into “Vertigo,” which makes its way with a lovely hesitancy, expressed on piano. Russell lets his notes stumble at times toward a dissonant sound but then corrects course. It’s the sound of someone finding their way to—or just toward—balance and peace. “Ardor (Reprise)” brings us back around with lofty synth chords and an upward-looking tone.
Blur has been an album that I listen to almost peripherally even when I’m paying attention. It’s quiet but not exactly calming, one of those releases that takes you the outlands of being meditative, but then pulls you back with a distinct change of tone or a hard ripple in the flow. It’s easy to get lost in, and the experience of doing so is pleasant, despite its overcast nature. Another solid release from Mr. Russell.