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Dave Harrington may be best known for his work with Nicholas Jaar in the noirish electronic band Darkside, but this new improvisational release clearly shows that Dave has a lot of other sonic tricks up his sleeve. Harrington grew up surrounded by jazz, from his father’s love of it to later studying with Kelvyn Bell, Brad Jones, JD Parran, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Dave Zinno. It is too easy to try and pin labels on music, especially exquisite soundscapes of this kind that seamlessly mesh together electronic, jazz, ambient, and even space rock. Listeners should trust their own instincts and let the music speak to them on an individual level. Instrumental music especially strokes emotional heartstrings and works through visualization. At least, that is what I have found as a longtime devotee of unusual and offbeat sounds.
Opening track “White Heat” immediately reminded me of Talk Talk’s classic work, Spirit of Eden, with its spacey, expansive backdrop and moody tones. At a bit over seven minutes, Harrington uses a kitchen sink approach and binds together creepy voices, tripped out keyboards, and many layers of sound spiraling in and through.
“Slides” is many shades darker and evokes Tim Hecker’s cinematic, improv pieces. Clarinet unsettles slightly and slides over gritty, industrial sound motes, and it’s over all too soon. “The Prophet” drops you down a dark well even further with unnerving notes crawling all over your skin. Staccato percussion percolates through the mix and then the melody swerves in an uplifting direction that is strangely compelling.
“Cities of The Red Night” comes off like Pink Floyd on a jazz fusion bender, as warm pedal steel guitar colors this as more of a rosy dawn than a neon night. “Steels” self-describes the spacey pedal steel that dominates this piece, and it is criminally short at 2:58. Though I haven’t mentioned the word psychedelic, some of these tunes are painted with that many-hued brush, including this one.
Title track “Become Alive” wouldn’t be out of place on a David Sylvian album, though Harrington doesn’t venture too far down the world music path. Which is good, because that direction has been paved over far too many times by lesser musicians, and Harrington has better things to do with his compositions. The song seems slightly unfocused and hazy, akin to the aimless wandering of a restless mind. Then everything coalesces with the introduction of soaring guitar and what sounds like clarinet way back in the mix.
“Spectrum” reminds me once again of Pink Floyd’s instrumental side, and has pared down passages. Closing track “All I Can Do” has the upbeat cadence that hearkens back to prime Pat Metheny (think As Falls Wichita…), and is vibrant and colourful in the way that all good fusion is.
In summary, this is a very good improvisational jazz record with many disparate musical styles that is cohesive and well worth a listen or three.