Drifting beatless slow-evolving ambience. MANTLE starts out as an inviting album of warm morphing drones that at times just barely fall short of melody. Harmonious flows of tone and leisurely progressions heave like a gentle oceanic swell punctuated by unidentifiable percussive effects that often hang deep deep within the mix. That is not to say, however, that everything here is placid and light. As the music progresses, there are passages of shadow, mysterious atmospheres that suggest solitary wanderings in unfamiliar places, and there are uneasy pieces where layered low-frequency drones roll with portentous purpose. The midsection of the CD grows increasingly cold and isolationist, with reverberating, muted rattles and sonic turbulence stirring among beds of undulating darkness. Toward the end, the music lightens somewhat, something of a sense of wonder coming to the fore, replacing the discomfort of the previous material. The deepest journeyings now behind, the air freshens and the final sound space echoes with an expansive airiness, with low metallic clangs and chimings, water like streams, hints of didgeridoo, and then everything is fading, evaporating like a dream on waking.
The artwork throughout this package is all formed around Brian's own photography, with colorful folds and twists of rock from the Utah slot caverns. Orange light bathes the etched surfaces, throwing textures into sharp relief. The imagery has been overlaid in places so that the shots appear almost abstract, with combed paint and rivers of light. On the rear of the jewel case is a track list with times for each and an overall total. Inside, the darkness of a cave acts as backdrop to a page of credits, background details and web site information. Sam Rosenthal is mentioned here for his work on the design of the package.
Brian Parnham releases his fourth work via steveroach.com. Indeed, this album was commissioned by Steve and includes atmospheres, drones and harmonic waves from the master on a number of tracks, and benefits from production and mastering at The Timeroom. MANTLE is comprised of twelve tracks, each in the region of five to seven minutes long. That said, the tracks bleed one into another so that the changes from one piece to another are only recognized by a subtle shift of mood. A medley from the album can be heard both at Brian's own website brianparnham.com or at stevroach.com.