by Darren Bergstein, e/i Magazine / Audio Verite
A seriously underrated talent that has embraced the same respect and awe for immense landscape and mystic realms as comrade-in-arms Steve Roach, composer/synthesist Parsons has for well over two decades realized a singular body of work that has embraced both an ambient ethos and the intricate, meditative harmonics of North Indian classical music. Parsons likens his work to the alap, the elongated introduction to Indian ragas, and in many ways such a description perfectly encapsulates the methodology of ambient music in the most literal sense, removed from yet reflecting Eno's dictum of "music that can be simultaneously listened to and ignored." Definitions often need upgrading, however: Parsons' music is about as ignorable as the mountain vistas he often titles his epic pieces after. Abundant with prodigious chords, tones stretched thinner and thinner at such altitudes they beg for oxygen, and inveighed by the magnetic tensions brought on by otherworldly forces at play, EARTHLIGHT is evocative in the most fantastical sense. The record's glacial pace mimics the breathless pulse of tectonic plates shirking millennia, but monodimensional drone this isn't.
A pronounced mystic quality informs all of Parsons' music, and the strange regions he traverses on this superb excursion are no different -- space music of a spherical nature, austere yet finely-wrought and patterned, buoyed by a surfeit of mysterious textures and alien cadences, the album is wonderfully disorienting, suggesting rugged confines as well as farflung artifices. The title track irises open to reveal a multitude of erupting, heavenly electronic lightbeams soon to be pierced by an eldritch motif of misty mountain modulars and cushioned bells. "Altai Himalaya" harkens back to Parsons' eponymous classic Himalaya, aerated blasts of synth drifting in the wake of stratospheric jetstreams. Both "Beyond the Light" and "Corona" reveal a composer who's come a long way since the simple two-chord notations of Tibetan Plateau: vari-hued pigments of electronics flow silkily into and out of one another like kaleidoscopic oils, buffed by tablaesque sequencers, pealing intrasolar radiowaves and, in the case of "Corona", truculent synths howling into the deep night. The penultimate twenty minutes that is "Bathing Light" seems to end too abruptly even at that considerable length, but taking into account the buzzsaw cut of its synths, its baleful atmosphere and incessant rhythmic momentum, it portends something of a new direction for Parsons, who once noted that his music was "about bathing in the sound." Surely a most inviting proposition, for on EARTHLIGHT, the water's mighty warm indeed.