How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Awakening is the sort of recording that makes demands of its listeners. Mark O'Leary (electric guitar), Steve Swallow (bass guitar) and Pierre Favre (percussion) manage to create a charmingly introspective record by insulating what is invariably solid jazz with a fusion of rocky harmonies.
In a genre dominated by musicians keen on experimentation, being good by default may easily just streamline into mediocrity. As a whole, Awakening is anything but mediocre. It's a surprisingly pleasant recording propelled by an impressive array of songs that lull listeners into concentrating on each note intently, not wanting to miss a single break in rhythm. On certain tracks, however, you can feel the musicians falling back on their safety net. Kymer and "MTF, most notably, are rather lukewarm, sounding too safe, like the musicians are relying on a tried-and-true formula. Fortunately, those tracks are anomalies.
O'Leary's electric guitar cuts into the sweeping percussion patterns and forms jagged, sweet melodic splices. "Melting, by far the best track, is composed of hypnotic and richly textured soft guitar undulations. The versatility of Swallow's bass is evident on "Last Light and "First Light. Conceptually, the tracks share similar titles but little else. They're meant to be audio paradoxes: the former is a relaxed combination of solemn moans, the latter an almost surreal thread of palpitating bass drones.
So, no, this is not the sort of record you can experience passively. You must listen and listen hard, taking mental notes and backing up when you deem appropriate. O'Leary, Swallow and Favre offer something that is anything but exhausting. It's an invigorating, crisp experience that's worth the effort.
Track Listing: Bello Corazon; Last Light; First Light; In a Moment; Awakening; Kymer; Melting; MTF; Paths; Prelude.
Personnel: Mark O'Leary: electric guitar; Steve Swallow: bass guitar; Pierre Favre: percussion.