Dino Pacifici, from Montreal, Canada, has up to now created a sunny, serene ambient sound, filled with smiles and relaxation, as well as a parallel line of bouncy, club-oriented but soft-edged dance tracks. Hallowed Ground
is a departure from this usual style. Pacifici is going exploring, and his travels take us to places both familiar and unfamiliar, from Steve Roach's deserts to the ice fields of Neptune.
The first track on this album, "Solace," is also the longest. It opens with lovely bell sounds in a long clear hall of reverberation, and then sails along with pleasant synthesizer chords floating by in a slow progression. This flow is accented with spacy special effects, especially the electronically modified voices and calls which are a Pacifici trademark. The piece has a soothing "mystical temple" feeling, but because it is so slow and relaxing I think it should not be the first piece on the album.
The middle tracks, "Timeshift" and "Hallowed Ground," are more electronic-oriented and modern. "Timeshift" is anchored by a cold muffled bell sound reminiscent of ambient composer "A Produce," and traced about by icy glittering synthesizer sounds and Pacifici's electronic whispers and mutterings. A slow drumbeat adds a Roach-like touch to the track. "Hallowed Ground" moves even further into an ominous ambient mood with plaintive synthesizer tones, contemplative drumbeats and tabla taps, and sonic fly-bys of Pacifici's voices – which are here slightly disturbing, rather than humorous or comforting.
Track 4, "Warp," is a foray into "old-fashioned" (meaning that old 20th century) electronica, the way it was done in Europe in the 1950s and 60s. Dino's sense of humor resurfaces here. A jaunty but sarcastic electronic beat introduces a Eurostyle machine tune, accompanied by beeps and bloinks which could have come from old science fiction movies – deliberately simplified electronic noises, using sophisticated modern synthesizers to produce stuff that sounds like it comes from rooms of dusty oscillators, ring modulators, tape splicers, and tangled multicolored cables.
"Ice Fields of Neptune" is a rerun from one of Pacifici's older albums, Random Factors. Its electronic evocation of icy sparkles has that scene-setting quality that makes it seem like film music. It is the most "pictorial" of the pieces on this album. The last cut, "Cave Dweller," is self-consciously "jungle music," Pacifici's musical tongue in cheek statement. It is not only drink-it-up lounge music, but a satire of the "tribal" ambient style of the last decades, complete with Dino's voices chanting something guttural and incomprehensible, like some of the better-known and far more serious practitioners of "neo-aboriginal" electronic music who will remain nameless here.
It's fun to listen to Dino Pacifici going into new territories. He visits the world of "dark ambient" and "tribal," as well as the Orientalizing territories of drifting bells and trance rhythms. But no matter where he goes, his characteristic wry, ironic humor goes with him, as well as his shimmering, warm harmonic lines. Even in the ice fields of Neptune, somehow with Dino Pacifici there are always echoes of summer.