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Jeff Pearce: To the Shores of Heaven

AAJ Staff By

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There are quite a few artists in the ambient field who use electric guitar as part or all of their musical instrumentation, but none does it so well as Jeff Pearce. In this solemn but beautiful album there are timbres and sound-effects, and even percussion sounds, which you would think were done on a synthesizer - but all of it is done with electric guitar. That does not mean that there is no actual guitar-playing on the album; it does show up, contemplative and smoothly slow, at times reminiscent of Will Ackerman's work for Windham Hill and "Imaginary Roads."

Indeed this is a slow-paced album, but that hardly means that it is dull or boring. The motion of this music is drifting and cloud-like, often circling around a single motif, a minimalist meditation on a few notes or even one or two chord changes; in this it is similar to the work of Tim Story ( Beguiled, The Perfect Flaw ) who does similar things with piano. Because Pearce chooses to work with conventional tonality most of the time, he chooses harmonies which stand up and become enriched by this minimalist treatment, blended by the "infinite reverb" which is so characteristic of the best ambient. The sound-material dissolves into a magical shimmer that glows and fades at just the right moments.

At times, this soundscape dips into the realm of dark ambient (as in cut 5, "Rain as a Metaphor,") but it never stays there very long. This is an album I would classify as "ambience of light;" even though it sometimes has a melancholy undertone, it is created to bring out feelings of hope, beauty, and even exaltation. Towards the end of the album, with cut 10, "To the Shores of Heaven," Pearce unleashes swells of soundwaves which reach toward a vision of glory, then follows with a pastoral guitar epilogue, no. 11, "Reunions," where the "country" evoked is that of the far country beyond the gates of this world.

Pearce has put this album together beautifully, the succession of pieces creating moods which form a kind of ambient narrative leading from darkness to light, from sadness to hope. It is an exquisite album which should be numbered among this year's best.

| Record Label: Hypnos Recordings | Style: Ambient


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