Hypnagogue Music Reviews

Rob Byrd, Aurora Season

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Rob Byrd crafts guitar ambient soundscapes in real time, without loops or samples, using “original sound design programs” to lay down ambient backdrops over graceful arpeggiated melodies. It’s a very workable formula, familiar and well-done on this album, but unfortunately here it gets a touch overplayed. Although I like what I hear on Aurora Season, and have enjoyed when its tracks come up in shuffle, Byrd never makes a move to break his established mold, never really changes the tone or approach to a noticeable degree over these 10 tracks. His playing is tight and crisp and engaging enough when you first encounter it. The harmonies between the melody and the ambient aspects underneath them are pretty seamless. But as each song opens with a phrasing arpeggio that’s not unlike the last one, and the tones of those underlying pads are equally familiar as the album goes along, its allure dims in light of the formula becoming too obvious. The issue fades, as I said, when Aurora Season gets added in among other work, but as a straight-through listen, it’s got nowhere to hide. Pick any track on the album on its own and you’ll find a good guitar ambient piece. Listening makes me wonder what Byrd can do if he moves away from the apparent limitations of this live setup, and also gives himself longer stretches in which to explore. (These songs all fall in the 4-5 minute range.) There is a voice here, one that has the ability to grab hold of a listener. For me, I just want it to tell me more and different things as it goes along. Do give Aurora Season a listen, though─even if it’s just sliding a track into your mix here and there. Listen to Rob Byrd shine in those moments.

Available at Bandcamp.

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