2011 Projekt PRO265 (CD)
The Passage is a foray into the realms of pure ambient, in the spirit of Steve's Immersion series, from Black Tape For A Blue Girl founder/songwriter Sam Rosenthal. The two pieces on the hour-long album submerge the listener in a self-sustaining environment of warm electronics and minimal processings of deep, tender swells and an unresolved, yearning string theme. This is music which gently rotates around its own axis in a time-suspended haze.
The track "The Passage" originated as the blissed-out sixteen-minute closer to 1999's Blacktape CD, As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire. It would take over a decade for the composition to resurface when Rosenthal began work on the score for Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson's guided-meditation set, Ananda Nidra. Rosenthal extended the already expansive original to an even more immersive forty-four minutes, serving as the score behind Michael's guidance. "When I muted Mark's track in the studio," Rosenthal remembers, "I discovered the piece had evolved into an intimate, personal and subtle soundscape. I wanted others to hear it on its own."
Without Ananda Nidra's vocal track, "The Passage" now feels like a gentle echo of the inner silence experienced during meditation. By working with a handful of sonic elements gently evolving over time, Rosenthal changes the emphasis ever so slightly. The vast field of harmonious resonance and granular sound move gradually and languidly, time stretching and evolving, rolling back into itself - very much in the vein of Rosenthal's favorite Discrete Music by Brian Eno.
On The Passage, everything hinges on the comforting arrival, dissolution and re-appearance of events, on motifs meeting and departing, thematic strands isolated from the current of sounds, drifting and freely floating for minutes on end, before ultimately flowing together again, like tacit tributaries re-entering the stream.
While "The Passage" revels in a slow motion dance on the far side of the infinite, "Rae," the last ten minutes of the album, adds a new element to the work. Stacking the shimmering harmonics of long-standing Blacktape collaborator and violinist Vicki Richards into a sonorous cathedral dome, "Rae" spirals higher and higher before fading away into a grateful silence. Streaks of strings coalesce into a passionate, romantic tone poem, an inviting, fragile melody. After the preceding forty-five minutes of deepness, these basically subtle timbral and compositional changes stand out as an affirmative response to the ocean of questions raised earlier. "Adding 'Rae' as a conclusion brings the cycle to a close for now," suggests Rosenthal, "It is an emotional release, the passage from this conditional state to the next. A moment of transition."
For Rosenthal, the album is an expression of his need for calm in a personal hurricane of noise, turbulence and rapid changes: "The Passage has been therapeutic for me," Rosenthal says. "I resurfaced, resurrected, remixed and reworked this piece into the sort of ambient album I love to listen to in my own quiet time. It serves as a call to deeply enter the slow flow of sound as well as an invitation to let the textures inhabit and transform the space around you. Reprocessing this material as the score for Mark's guided meditation erased the noise of the everyday world while allowing me time to heal. It helped me set free both fears and beautiful possibilities, settling in on a calming sense of release."
"The Passage" returns, dramatically refined and enhanced, accompanied by the new, complementary track "Rae." It brings the narrative of Rosenthal's art to a new point; and in that, it is the beginning of a new chapter in his creative possibilities.