Friday, March 27, 2015

Abandoned Playground. The Trouble with Angels.

Abandoned Playground.  The Trouble with Angels.

I am constantly amazed at the variety and quality of music found in Northeast Ohio, as well as how much flies under the radar, known and appreciated by an ardent core of fans.  My current case in point is this album by Ray Carmen and Jim Wieser, the two musicians of the group Abandoned Playground.  Mr. Carmen wrote the music, and is apparently a highly prolific composer.  His blog lists numerous recordings under his name or with bands he appears to play with, all released by his Cut and Paste Records label.  He writes in a variety of styles, but the present album is all instrumental, with a few spoken word interludes dispersed amidst the somewhat ambient tracks.  I say “somewhat” deliberately because some of these pieces could be turned into  pop songs or even soft rock music given a vocal track and a few other considerations.

One might casually perceive this album as having a religious theme, given the cover and the opening vocal excerpt from the film The Trouble with Angels, where it is announced that Hayley Mills will be entering the convent.  However one wishes to interpret the music from this point is up to the individual listener.  There is no hint thereafter of what the music “means,” and there are no explicit religious references.  Let the music take you where it will.  The rest of the tracks consist of well-composed and nicely arranged instrumental works with hints of folk music, rock, and more ambient sources.  All eleven works are short, with none more than three minutes in length.  Carmen chooses to call these experimental works, although his meaning here is a bit obscure. To me, experimental music takes one out of the usual range of melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic experiences, into realms of noise, found sounds, or even less pleasant musical phenomena.  Few such things are found here, except for the vocal excerpts.  There are two other tracks with vocal material.  “We All Fall” contains a British shortwave radio broadcast concerning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, backed by music.  “A Skyfull of Voices” also contains bit of found vocals, although they are muted, and relate to Middle Eastern musical influences.  After the fourth track there are no voices, and the music takes the listener in various directions, all really quite delightful.  Limited in modulation and generally rather quiet, the works flow well from one to another, with few peaks or troughs.  Jim Wieser’s contributions on violin, concertina, and electric guitar are notable and lovely.

I must seek out more of Mr. Carmen’s albums, as I have found this one to be quite enjoyable.  Readers of this blog who are interested in ambient instrumental works may find it as interesting as I have.

Personnel:  Ray Carmen (guitars, bass, keys, percussion, drums, odds and ends); Jim Wieser (violin, concertina, electric guitar).  Borrowed vocal excerpts from the film, The Trouble with Angels, and British shortwave radio broadcasts.  Produced, recorded, and mixed by Ray Carmen; mastered by Alan Grandy.
Tracks:  The Trouble with Angels, Grenadine, We All Fall, A Skyfull of Voices, Wildwood (I Can’t Hear You), Hope for an Early Spring, Going Back to an Empty House, Pictures on the Way We Used to Be, You Are Always Beautiful, First Day of School, Pajama Day.

Gottfried Klass

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