Computers and technology have changed our lives in so many ways that it is hard to fathom the speed in which our lives have transformed. This rapid transformation also applies to music. Home studios and digital distribution for the modern-day artist allows more musicians per capita to get their music heard on a larger scale. What has also changed is the ability for musical instruments and sound emulation of acoustic instruments to capture the warmth and natural acoustics of an instrument, allowing them to make a considerable impact on the music world.
Michael William Gilbert is known for his combining of electronic and acoustic instruments to create a natural sounding music environment. He is one of the principal figures of electronic derived soundscape. Gilbert has been developing his abilities and sounds on his own Gibex Records since the seventies. Moving Pictures (1978), was the first in his ever expanding catalog, followed by The Call (1980), Dreamtime (1982), The Light in the Clouds (1987), Points of Views (1988), Other Voices (2000), I Can See From Here (2010), Secret Stories (2015).
Now in '18, Gilbert has released Radio Omnibus, with special guests Adam Holzman, known for his work with Miles Davis, and Mark Walker, most notably known for his work with Lyle Mays and the Four for Music SSO chamber ensemble and the Sofia Session Orchestra. Radio Omnibus seamlessly melds electronic music with acoustic instruments and nowhere is this more evident than the two chamber pieces, "Three Doors (3 Movements for Wind Quintet)," and "Nightwalk," with the Four for Music SSO chamber ensemble. Except for two tracks, Radio Omnibus was mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Sean Magee; what is even more fascinating is Gilbert generated many of the electronic sounds on the album by using the µBraids, a Eurorack voltage-controlled digital oscillator/sound source developed and marketed by MW Gilbert & Daniel Gilbert as Tall Dog Electronics.
"Night Walk" is a sonically rich chamber orchestra composition that melds the world of electronic generated sounds with acoustic instruments with resounding perfection. The acoustic instruments are: flute, bassoon, vibraphone and strings. One of the sounds Gilbert created is a combination of warm brass and keyboard with strings sounds. The sonics blend nicely, with organic honesty. One would be hard pressed to distinguish this as not being an acoustic performance. The composition has a flow and colors of twentieth century chamber music. Gilbert has done a good job of orchestrating the instruments to meld together in both register and colors.
"TimeSpace" is all about the possibilities of the electronically generated instruments. Gilbert creates a multi-layered soundscape that has percussive sounds, ambient sounds, and instrument sounds. All feel natural, flowing and building a composition that is emotional and impactful in its statement for listening. The electronica element is present and the beats are strong and danceable, but Gilbert's ideas and textural sound offer complex layering and orchestrational balance, with just the right amount of tension and release, which takes this track far beyond the electronica genre.
"The Widening Sky" features Holzman on electric piano and Walker on drums. Gilbert blends his electronic sounds to match the timbre and acoustic color of the drum kit and electric piano. Layered with full bass, rich string sounds, and keyboard, Gilbert's composition have a through-composed structure that focuses on developing soundscapes that flow into each other. His use of colorizations and seamless blending is flawless.
What Gilbert has created is a remarkable blending of electronic music and contributing acoustic musicians to a canvas of sheer adventure. Programming is a skill that in the right hands can be a fascinating and notable journey. Gilbert takes the art of electronic programming and catapults it to a toothsome and riveting experience. His ability to see the overall picture as a composer and to deeply connect to the various sounds for a fully engaged sonic experience is much more than an audiophile experience. His knowledge of each instrument, its sonic abilities and how they lay against the production ideas is clearly far beyond standard faire. The album traverses the jazz idiom to the world spectrum, but what is clearly not boxable is the adventuresome spirit of the album. It breaks barriers and is clearly the signaling of what is to come in electronic styles of jazz and world music.
Onomatopia; Night Walk; TimeSpace; Ice Spring Breath; Canon of Flowers; Of Time and the
River; The Widening Sky;
Rainbow; Three Doors; Cloud Limbo Land.
Michael William Gilbert: modular synthesizer, samplers, loops, electronics, percussion;
Adam Holzman: keyboards, electric piano, acoustic piano;
Mark Walker: drums;
Four for Music and the Sofia Session Orchestra;
Supreme Tracks: drums, violin, cello, fretless bass, flute, oboe;
Uncredited: guitar, mandolin, dobro.