Afternoon Ambiance is the new six-song album from Dan Blanchard. An instrumental delight, Blanchard collides the old world with the new world in these astonishing selections. No words needed to these euphoric absconding codas; no skills need to just listen. Your mind melts, your heart heals with Blanchard’s transcending talents. Poignant and poetic without voices, these songs are relentlessly riveting.
The opening track, “Unwind” (Raga Bhimpalasi Alaap) is radiating. Just as its name suggests, “Unwind” unspools the senses into a circular, pond-like essence. You feel centered. I can’t say that you feel entirely like floating, but you feel the freedom of the energy rising beneath you. The music bed releases you into its open arms. In the second song, “Deeper” (Raga Bhimpalasi Jod), takes it a step further (obviously). It continues along and you start to feel the story take a bigger shape. At this point in your listening experience, even if you were to listen to the songs out of sequence, you would still feel the awe-inspiring sonic bliss.
By the time you get to track three, “Swirling” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Vilambit Jhaptaal), Blanchard really starts to reveal more of the Indian tones. He’s opening up the landscape more, you can breathe deeper. The overall textures are still very light, very delicate to a certain degree. In track four, “Building” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Madhya Teentaal) the listener continues to fold into the sounds, enriched by the layering. The title of the songs couldn’t be more perfect and Blanchard always nails the overall vibe and tone. In track five, “Ascent” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Drut Teentaal), one of my favorite parts about the song is the percussion. It’s rapid, very tight. If you were to close your eyes and image the speed, the sound that a bird’s wings would make taking flight, this is the sound that the drums make. If you listen ever so closely, you can almost hear the fingertips tapping on the drum skin. It’s a rattling, a burst of energy and delight.
The last song, “Let Go” (based on Raga Bhimpalasi) wraps the entire experience all into one. I felt like the undercurrent of music, like the movement of water, trickled along, finding its way into spaces to fill. I didn’t hear the percussion as much as I did in “Ascent”, as Blanchard compresses the energy to an even pulsating body. I don’t use the term compressing in a negative or harsh context; Blanchard never constricts or slams any sounds on the listener in any of these songs. “Let Go” conveys the mere focus of listening intently to the strings, the power of the music. I was able to compartmentalize these stirring echoes into one. And no I’m not a Jedi knight. This entire album makes you feel very close and intimate to the instrumentation. By that final track, you are fully content. Blanchard’s Afternoon Ambiance is remarkable and one of 2020’s most interesting sonic pallets. Blanchard receives high marks indeed for his wonderful, wandering sonic numbers.
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