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Michael William Gilbert: I Can See From Here

C. Michael Bailey By

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If the NPR radio show, Hearts of Space, were hipper and less ambient, it would fall over itself playing Michael William Gilbert's I Can See From Here. The recording is a 14-part suite, made up of Gilbert compositions synthetically prepared by the composer. Gilbert plays all instruments—that is, synthesizer, computer samples and loops, as well as percussion, and is joined on "Amerikan Dream" by guitarist Peter Kaukonen, the younger brother of Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna).

Gilbert approaches his task multi-focally, generating first a sonic-rhythmic landscape over which to spread his sound colors: everything from electric piano and Fender jazz bass, to vibraphone and human voices. The mood of the recording is one of perpetual motion.

There is nothing ambient about this music, however. It is kinetic, even hyper-kinetic, always moving. Where ambient music can serve as a background distraction, Gilbert's music demands input of the listener, revealing something new and novel with every spin.

On "Dance Myself to Sleep," Gilbert creates an island vibe with the sounds of marimba and trumpet, layering that rhythm with cello and electric bass. The song propels itself with a head-bobbing, infectious beat, virally transmitting groove, to use an older term. A plaintive violin emerges, with a quasi- Celtic personality weaving in and out of South Louisiana by way of Texas swing. All of these sounds and influences are poured together to provide a recognition center for a broad array.

Kaukonen provides a wall of Shawn Lane-like noise that fills in all of the subatomic space between the protons, neutrons and electrons of "Amerikan Dream." This is the longest piece on the disc, and requires the entire time to say what has to be said. Gilbert has created his own sound universe on I Can See From Here, a stylistic mash-up that reveals musical secrets like the fog burning off of a summer's day.

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