Eric Pietras offers an aural tour of the San Francisco area on Beams. Originally created as a soundtrack for a time-lapse film, the album guides us through a series of vignettes and vistas, shifting tone each time yet maintaining a strong balance between melody and drift, energy and ease. A few of these glimpses are brief—under or just over two minutes—but all of the moments presented are well-told and full. Pietras starts off in a quiet space with the short, pad-based title track, then gets more melodic on “Once Hardly Known.” New layers and sounds come in each time the melody’s base makes a full round, building the piece’s character bit by bit. By mid-track, it has become a cool collection of thoughts and textures. Beats, string sounds, a great-but-odd vocal drop…everything fits. “The Shape of Water” catches my ear right off with its Casiotone-style conga beat (you’ll recognize it) and wobbly, pseudo-steel drum keyboard tones. It slides easily into “Duck Island” with its lush, round Rhodes piano sound and drawn-out chords. “Theory of North” picks up a jazzy vibe, keeping that Rhodes in play. In spots, Pietras drops out his hook-heavy beat and lets chords and pads wash through. Another vocal drop injects it with another level of texture. You will hum along with this one. There’s a more to ambient feel to “The Hill.” Long pads that sound a bit like a tambura buzz through over light field recordings. It’s a contemplative piece, like standing in one spot and just taking in everything around you.
Beams is one of those releases you can listen to casually, but Pietras does a lot of great detail work here as well. Its light jazz edges make it catchy, and its laid-back, thoughtful tone make it easy to slip into. There’s a whole lot to like here, and you need to give it a listen.
Available from Aural Films.