by Phil Derby
Ahhhh. That's my initial reaction to this great collaboration between Vidna Obmana and Alio Die. Bright, warm, metallic synths slowly wash over rain sticks in an ethereal blend of soothing sounds. Breathing slows, the heart rate and blood pressure drop. The calming effect is extraordinary. Besides the medicinal value, it happens to be very, very good music. There is a great synergy at work here. It is impossible to tell who contributed a particular musical idea, as they blend to perfection as a unified whole. The liner notes are intentionally vague about the instrumentation, crediting the musicians with drones, samples, loops, treatments, textures, recycling, and various acoustics. The result is an organic, breathing musical work. The wonderful trick here is how effortlessly the music flows, such that the musical space is completely different every few minutes, but you can't figure out how you got there.
The metallic synths and rain sticks are completely gone now, but I can't pinpoint exactly when they left, unless I want to fidget with my CD player and sit down to figure it out. But then, that's not the point. This is some of the best relaxation music I've heard, ever. It isn't lightweight, and it isn't boring. The drones are richly complex, and they evolve at exactly the right pace. A point of comparison might be early works from Michael Stearns, such as Ancient Leaves or Jewel, although Jewel doesn't develop at the same pace that ECHO PASSAGE does.
Though the music plays continuously and is technically indexed as one track, three movements with individual titles are noted. Even though times aren't marked, these passages are fairly identifiable. "Echoes of Light" transitions into "A Slip Of Darkness" around the 23-minute mark. The rain sticks return, and the music is quieter, softer, with birds in the background. No, this isn't some new age turn; the bird noise is subtle and occasional. At about 35 minutes is where I'm guessing "The Passage" begins, because the music grows and builds to a giant wall of sound, a fairly dramatic moment in a mostly peaceful sonic journey. The dark beauty and solitude return for the remainder, in a variety of different sound collages. One of the strongest ambient releases I've heard, ECHO PASSAGE is not to be missed.