When Mark Esakoff
and Michael Whipple
began collaborating in 1987, they focused their sound on the resonance of three sources: Wood (claves, marimbas, etc.), wind (flute, recorder, etc.) and skin (nylon strings, congas, etc.). Although their first four releases expanded their sound into metallic, electronic and other timbres, this fifth release honors the Wood, Wind & Skin
purity of their early founding days.
In Chasm, Esakoff's primary voices are nylon string guitar and marimba (which he professes to play like a "log drum piano"), and Whipple's are flute, keyboards and drums. Whipple also plays bass and percussion and sings on Wood, Wind & Skin
, while Esakoff adds luitars (lute-guitars), ukuleles, bass and vocals.
Esakoff and Whipple are both natives of Ventura (California). This might not at first seem relevant, but if you've hiked through sunlit mountains, there's a good chance you'll recognize the sound, vision and (especially) the feel of Wood, Wind & Skin
. After the reverential two-minute introduction "Praying for Rain," the music skips easy and carefree into the warm "Sideways Sunshine" and then tumbles into the bright and pretty "Look at Her Glow."
"Arctic Crossing" turns much more cold and brittle and seems to float frozen in space, suspended by arching strings, until quick and sharp guitar notes pierce its static sound like icy needles of frozen rain. "Inner Jungle" turns even darker and more mysterious: A cymbal keeps anxious time while percussion slithers and rattles out from shadows and bass builds a Middle Eastern mood, then a solitary horn rises up like Yusef Lateef
to scan the horizon for eastern sounds and leading the music into a whirling Arabic dance.
It's surprising to find a tune by heavy metal monster gods Black Sabbath
in the midst of such sweetness and light, but Chasm find and magnify the beauty in "Laguna Sunrise," a melodic pause co-written by all four Sabbath members for their sprawling 1972 double-vinyl Vol. 4
. It's a great reminder of how the gentleness and simplicity of Wood, Wind & Skin
almost disguises the instrumental dexterity and profound connection between Mark Esakoff and Michael Whipple. Almost disguises, but not quite.
Praying for Rain; Sideways Sunshine; Look at Her Glow; Strange Currents; On a Lark; Mountains; Inner Jungle; Agua
Blanca; The Memory Box; Laguna Sunrise; Element People;
Arctic Crossing; The Silence Between the Words.