[Reviewed by stark]
I’d be lying by saying that I know all the albums stamped with the Home Normal logo. From about twenty of them that I have in my collection emerges the image of a label focusing on ambient sometimes more atmospheric, sometimes with the intention to go experimental, at times even touching on musical surrealism. Only very rarely dark creatures, calling to the night. I don’t know Elian’s previous recordings, so it’s hard for me to refer specifically to this project and put “Harrowgate” in a concrete place inside his aural kingdom.
This rather ignorant introduction is caused by the first listen of “Harrowgate”, when after pressing “play” immediately and unexpectedly an intensity which brings to mind the Canadian duo Aun poured out of the speakers. It has to be said that this isn’t any ambient darkness. Elian simply circulates through all shades of grey (more than fifty) between black and white, without falling into extremes. As a result, he created an album that is pleasant in its reception, full of great sounds and not obvious, nor identifying specific emotions and associations.
Elian is the musical alter ego of Michael Duane Ferrell, coming from Richmond, VA. Apart from two discs for Home Normal the musician has also released a CDr for The Long Story Recording Company (a Twice Removed sister-label) and some materials on miniCDrs, in digital form and one on a cassette. The latest work, “Harrowgate” consists of five tracks, the shortest being less than four and a half minutes, the longest more than fifteen. That’s all technical trivia.
The first track gives the impression of communing with something grand. It’s not that the album is grand itself, but simply reveals the infinite space in front of the listener. As if you were standing on the top of a cliff, staring at the vast landscape spreading out beneath your feet. Not necessarily on our planet, as it all has a peculiar taste of science fiction. Yes, the opening is definitely one of the highlights of “Harrowgate”.
The second part is more quiet and subtle, but becoming more intense with every minute, while this drone covered in white noise morphs into some kind of electronically generated organ part, flowing peacefully, surrounded by clicks and other noises. At times the beauty, at times the beast leads the dance, and the combination of these elements contrasting with each other sounds really intriguing. A lot of tension but also a surreal atmosphere can be found in “Part III”, where the listener can hardly find a point of reference, and the whole thing could be a sound illustration of the first exploration of a newly discovered planet. A more structured, though not more familiar and accessible form is the 4th part, which at a certain level can be considered as a continuation of its predecessor.
The grand finale, majestic, mysterious, like the discovery of an alien life form, when admiration is mixed with anxiety and uncertainty for tomorrow. A powerful ending of an interesting and at several levels surprisingly original CD. Elian – another name that should be followed in the future.