Before Sunrise

Jeff Greinke

Before Sunrise

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About Before Sunrise

Tracks:

1   High Flyers Of The Night Sky

2   Slow Train On An Open Plain

3   Night Watch

4   The River

5   Under Falling Stars

6   Mountains And Clouds

7   Rain, Then Snow

8   Before Sunrise

Rich with harmonic texture and delicate detail, sound-sculptor Jeff Greinke’s BEFORE SUNRISE presents an exquisite arrangement of ambient chamber music. The album follows a natural progression from the composer’s previous works, featuring abstract soundscapes and emotive passages of effortless beauty, created with an abundance of acoustic instruments. Piano, cello, viola, winds, brass, and vibraphone, all blend fluently with Greinke’s own sampled textures, synthesizers, and other electronic elements, resulting in an expansive palette of rich timbres that underscore a nuanced display of ambient impressionism.

Spanning the genres of modern classical, electronic, and ambient, BEFORE SUNRISE gently evolves, flowing through a predominately non-linear structure. The music is characteristically slow-moving, and the balance between composition and improvisation reveals an organic sound that is vital for a dynamic listening experience. The string instruments are recorded in such a way as to highlight the sound of the bow moving across the strings, and this attention to both acoustic details and performance techniques feeds the music’s natural quality. Greinke explains, “I instructed the musicians not to shy away from squeaks and scrapes that sometimes happen while playing such instruments. It’s the first time I’ve really paid attention to those sounds and I made sure to bring those qualities into the mix when appropriate. I find that those sounds evoke a lonely, abandoned landscape that appeals to me.” Indeed, the recordings conjure a desolate, and at times melancholy terrain, while the warmth and depth of the electronic textures offer a lush, comforting blanket of sound.

Greinke takes deep inspiration from the sights, sounds, sensations, and atmosphere of his natural surroundings, and as a result BEFORE SUNRISE is an intimate and spacious work that unfolds with the majestic subtlety of a pre-dawn sky.

Reviews

Jeff Greinke is a highly regarded composer of minimalist dark ambient and deep space music who I haven’t spend enough time listening to. This album blends dark drone with modern classical, incorporating acoustic instruments into its soundscapes which flow like the waves of a tide at night. Strings, horns, reeds, and even very subtle hand drums make appearances and are given space, blending into the mix yet also occupying crucial roles in the construction of the pieces. “Night Watch” is more of a still, cloudy haze, but other pieces have more prominently melodic parts. “The River” has a really cool slow, trudgy beat mixed down way low, as well as more Philip Glass-esque patterns, and some flitered trumpet on top, giving it more of a late night vibe. “Under Falling Stars” is somewhat similar, but a lot more sparkling and precious-sounding. The last few tracks are extremely tranquil, but there’s still so much happening. Such an incredibly rich, expressive, sublimely arranged and recorded album. - The Answer Is In The Beat, Paul Simpson
He’s been actively recording music since the early 80s, with well over two dozen releases to his credit, yet probably not as prolific as some others in the floating ambient subgenre, but his creations are clearly different, embracing acoustic instrumentation as a fundamental part of his electronic based sound, thereby often making his music a hybrid of chamber styles and ambient electronics. I’ve not heard every release, in fact probably only around ten of them throughout the years, but they all seem to follow along in that general direction. Before Sunrise makes good on all of his previous endeavors, seeming to be a very natural progression along a somewhat expected trajectory. Each of the eight tracks of varying length stay around long enough to make an impressionistic statement without wearing down the listener with endless or unnecessary repetition or extension. The nine-minute opener, “High Flyers of the Night Sky,” is probably one of the most purely floating and subtle electronic amont them all, but even there, among the gentle keyboard sounds and textures, we hear strong melodies emerging from the drones in the darkness, flanked by baritone sax from guest player James DeJoie, french horn from Greg Campbell, trumpet from Lesli Dalaba, and soothing violin from Austin Larkin, such that by the end of the piece we are treated to a truly colorful and mystical kaleidoscope of light and shadows. “Slow Train on an Open Plain” is a perfect title for the follow-up track that emerges out of the shadow of the first, here more string-driven with violin, viola and cello, with french horn driving the main melody punctuated by beautiful piano ornamentation. “Under Falling Stars” is a piece that proceeds with a stong melodic looping cycle, it’s all Greinke here with no guest players, using a wide variety of keyboard sounds together with samples of acoustic instruments. The perfectly titled “Mountains and Clouds” evokes a moving stillness bathed in fog, a sound that Greinke has been perfecting over several decades, the changes within this beautiful six-minute piece move at a truly glacial pace. The 12-minute closing title track evokes the sounds and feelings of night, with flute, horn, baritone sax, and violin floating through the electronic textures and piano accents, like the shapes of muted colors and subtle powers emerging from the fringes of darkness. Make no mistake, this is relaxing music, be it a ticket to slumberland or a way to start your day without stress. Another excellent release from a master of organic structures. - Peter Thelen, Exposé
An exquisitely nuanced collection of ambient chamber music, Before Sunrise blurs the lines between classical and electronic genres in the most striking manner imaginable. Jeff Greinke's been crafting music and releasing recordings for decades, and the sensibility the sound sculptor, artist, and designer has refined over the course of that production period is evident in every fibre of the recording's being.

A project like Greinke's that pairs live musicians with electronic textures and embeds their playing within soundscape structures can produce a result where the contributions of the acoustic players feels grafted onto the backdrops crafted by the electronic artist. Not so here: Before Sunrise sees the two components integrated seamlessly, with all elements working in tandem to achieve specific ends. No account of the fifty-seven-minute release would be complete without acknowledging those who so splendidly augment Greinke's keyboards, electronics, and samples, even if their contributions appear on only half of the album's eight pieces: string players Paris Hurley, Alex Guy, Austin Larkin, and Dylan Rieck; trumpeter Lesli Dalaba, woodwinds players James DeJoie, and Greg Campbell on French horn, vibraphone, and hand drum.

Establishing the album's tone, Greinke builds a multi-dimensional meditative space using vibraphone, bass clarinet, strings, samples, and electronics in “High Flyers of the Night Sky,” its sense of mystery nurtured with masterful patience by the composer. Amidst the thrum of insects and the low-pitched utterances of the bass clarinet, the trumpet's sparse declamations call to mind the similarly lonely sound of the horn in Ives's The Unanswered Question. Such an association aside, the material exemplifies the meticulousness with which Greinke assembles his elements into painterly wholes.

Track titles aren't without a programmatic dimension, but even if generic titles had been used the pieces would still be strongly evocative. Strings figure prominently in the arrangement of “Slow Train on an Open Plain,” lending the piece an elegiac character that very much conveys qualities of loneliness and desolation. By comparison, the combination of muted trumpet, hand drum, clarinet, and electronics gives “The River” a somewhat exotic, even Fourth World character that suggests affinities with the music of Jon Hassell or David Toop.

With respect to the solo productions, “Night Watch” is Greinke in deep Eno mode, the atmospheric ambient soundscape powerfully suggestive of a nocturnal harbour setting when the only sounds intermingling are those of wind and water. Using acoustic piano as the front-line instrument in the peaceful, New Age-styled reverie “Rain, Then Snow” adds a wholly different dimension to the recording, as does the prominent role accorded DeJoie's flute in the slow-motion title piece, a move that deepens the quiet grandeur of a twelve-minute moodscape that in its closing minutes approaches the profound stillness of an Arvo Pärt composition.

Nuance and sensitivity extend not only to the material itself but to the recording approach Greinke applied to the project. By design, the string instruments were recorded in such a way that the extra-musical sounds that naturally arise during performance, such as the sound of a bow moving across the strings, would be retained. In the composer's own words, “I instructed the musicians not to shy away from squeaks and scrapes that sometimes happen while playing such instruments ... I find that those sounds evoke a lonely, abandoned landscape that appeals to me.” The result is music obviously rich in texture and mood but music rich in humanity, too. - Ron Schepper, Textura
Active since the 80’s, American composer Greinke remains the musical equivalent of a gifted impressionist painter. But where once it was often pure electronic soundscapes,recently there’s been a change. The gorgeous and atmospheric Before Sunrise finds him crafting a kind of 21st century chamber music enhanced with subtle electronica. Sometimes it’s clearly composed, like the layered, spinning melodies of “Under Falling Stars”. At other times the players are improvising, and their sounds – piano, cello, viola, winds, brass, and vibraphone – are deconstructed into varying degrees of blur and drone. “Slow Train on an Open Plain” is but one standout example, and overall it’s a beautifully rounded album. Before Sunrise is a good deal more spaced out than the mod classical of its predecessor Scenes From A Train (2013); it feels like the full flowering of an intriguing new direction. - Mike G, Ambient Music Guide
'Before Sunrise' marks the 20th solo album for ambient artist Jeff Greinke, not counting his collaborations. It's a shame that a number of them are out of print, although there have been some reissues. I first experienced Greinke's work in the late '80s to early '90s and so am familiar with only a handful of his recordings. What I liked about them is that they seemed dark and arcane at the time; not dark in a Robert Rich or Lustmord sort of way, but less conventional ambient than what others in the genre seemed to be doing then. If you've been out of touch with Greinke's music as well, you will find that it has evolved into something quite different, yet not without retaining the flavor and texture Greinke is known for. Greinke's crepuscular vision of 'Before Sunrise' is a rich tapestry of acoustic instruments played by guest players (Greg Campbell- French horn, vibraphone, hand drum; Lesli Dalaba- trumpet; James DeJoie- clarinets, saxophones, flutes; Alex Guy- viola; Paris Hurley- violin; Austin Larkin- viola, violin; Dylan Rieck- cello) combined with Greinke's signature electro-acoustic atmospheres and keyboard improvs. It's an impressionistic kind of ambient, fairly well removed from the New Age melodic ambient you might expect to hear with orchestral instruments combined with synthesizers. This is a pretty deep work with a number of moods and soundscapes explored over the course of 8 tracks in 57 minutes; everything from rumbling darkness to splinters of moonlight piercing through a many-layered forest of sound, to sparkly fairy lights. By its nature, 'Before Sunrise' has an aura of melancholy mystery to it that always seems to be evolving. It is almost hard to believe that the music has been largely improvised as the instrumental coordination is so stellar that it often seems as though there had to have been some rather complex arrangements in places. The layering of atmospheres is extraordinary in its richness, yet nothing is buried. Rather than overtake Greinke's atmospheres, the acoustic instruments enhance it and add their own piquancy to what is already a pretty heady stew. 'Before Sunrise' is a trip well worth taking, and is intriguing enough to warrant multiple replays. - Steve Mecca, Chain D.L.K.
Before Sunrise by electronic music maven Jeff Greinke is ethereal music magic at its best. Along with Jeff’s electronic / ambient sound waves, the CD also features other musicians blending in piano, horns, strings, clarinet and more, making for an effective instrumental music album that blends floating and spatial synth sounds with a kind of 21st century modern day classical music effect. As with the Chris Russell album, Before Sunrise, and in fact all Spotted Peccary CD releases are tastefully packaged with superb artwork, as well as being also available in mp3 and 24-bit audiophile downloads. - Robert Silverstein, MWE3
An artist cannot really be represented by a single release, but rather is suggested through an accumulation of work. Throughout his lengthy and varied career Jeff Greinke has gone through an evolution – or maybe, because of its length and so many interesting twists and turns, this aspect of his life may be better described as a convolution. While his earlier albums searched through the rubble of the unconscious, Before Sunrise (57’20”) switches from the cerebral to the specific. With the rigorous organization of the interplay of texture, melody and harmony, and stemming from a developed instinct, he organizes Ambient forms to give his creativity a lucid expression. As usual, Greinke approached the task of producing Before Sunrise with a point of view all his own. Due to the presence of cello, clarinet, piano, vibraphone, flute, French horn, violin and viola this release may be thought to fall in the category of Ambient Chamber Music – and certainly, if you like this sort of thing, then you will not be disappointed. But Greinke has always been a musical outsider – not even faintly trying to get inside – and so these eight tracks do retain that feel and integrity to one degree or another. Some sections of Before Sunrise flow like a spiritual quest for life’s meaning, while others celebrate the outlaw life this remote genre of music may support. As the unwinding ribbon of notes from a violin bend plaintively, droning strings support a melodious narration. Further in a wooded wild place materializes, where we wait, under stars, in the cool of night, well in advance of the first sign of dawn. Thickening under a solemn atmosphere, we may feel a nocturnal presence – like something impending. Possessing the capacity to inspire contradictory responses, it is often very gorgeous – this strange and beautiful wayward place of sound. After all these years, decades of making records, Greinke still asks for nothing more than our quiet attention. There is something radical about that, and about such stubborn faith in one’s work – and in us. - Chuck van Zyl, Star's End
It's the 1st time that I put some music of Jeff Greinke, and nevertheless I know the name, between my ears. Associated strongly with the New Age and with the said dark ambient music, Jeff Greinke nevertheless played an important role in the emergence of the American electronic ambient music in the middle of the 80's. “Before Sunrise” is also a first opus of the Texan musician on the Spotted Peccary label, two of his previous albums (Virga and Winter Light) appeared however on Lotuspike which was bought in 2008 by Spotted Peccary. And as each album from this American label is meticulously done by Ben Cox and Howard Givens, one has to expect to a fascinating rendezvous with an EM which surfs more on the axes of the New Age, but in a more progressive vision. Except that here, Jeff Greinke borrows another avenue by offering musical panoramas where the dark shadows of the synths' textures and of his vast range of samplings are coupled with acoustic instruments, such as trumpets, saxophone, French horn, viola, violin, cello and piano. And this union gives a musical texture which is reflected in the steel blue of an artwork which expresses frankly the vision of “Before Sunrise”.

And the adventure begins with "High Flyers on the Night Sky" which gets develop in a nocturnal atmosphere with a concerto of locusts which makes raise a synthesized mist perfumed of the morning dews. Tears of piano fall on this veil of lines of which the contrasts hum a slightly shrill ambient ode which welcomes the warmth of the wind instruments. This acoustic ensemble gives some nice reflections to the synth layers and to their gleaming colors. The violin also stretches its tears, adding more Sino-American texture to this title which evolves with a good emotional intensity worthy of a film music. This violin is more present in "Slow Train on an Open Plain" which is a suite of the opening track. Its pace is a little slower, a little like a mortuary procession where the sorrow is translated by the violin lamentations. Still here, the wind instruments dominate the ambient waves of a synth while, pensive, the piano is a little more melodious. "Night Watch" shows all of Jeff Greinke's skill to build a dark soundscape. A muffled humming escapes from its introduction, lifting hoarse breezes, as carillons' tinklings, which are prisoners of a static storm. "The River" proposes a more joyful structure. A more livened up one with delicate jerky riffs which dance with this kind of light Jazz like those on the New Orleans streets. Clarions and synth layers cover this rhythmic a bit spasmodic, one would say at times a kind of spiritual trance, while the addition of the violin and the piano bring into opposition a nostalgic gloom.

"Under Falling Stars" starts with a thick cloud of violin which descends from heavens with the pinched chords of another violin. This effect of cascade is amplified by a piano, structuring a very good musical canon which is more melodious, in particular thanks to the tinklings of carillon, than grave and austere. A good and very musical title which turns to a light rhythm in its 2nd half. But in the end of the day, this is a nice music piece which is as much polished up than tied up with a catchy and exhilarating musical cacophony which always stays rather near of a fascinating cohesion. "Mountains and Clouds" is a title of dark vibes with samplings of acoustic instruments which float on a tray of sibylline sound shadows. The winds roar and moo with a coldness in the tones which gives an icy aspect to the slow tonal evolution of this title. Beautiful and disturbing at the same time, I quite liked this storm which hides behind a piano sometimes furious and sometimes dreamy of "Rain, then Snow". A sublime layer of ghostly voice rocks both visions split into a single approach of a piano which reminds me of George Winston. The long title-track reflects the first 7 chapters of “Before Sunrise” with a slow approach where the already present melancholic flavors abound with the same set of acoustic instruments as in "High Flyers one tea Night Sky". The viola is striking of emotion and of sadness while the piano drops its drops of tenderness in this linear movement where Jeff Greinke's dark winds gobble up in the end an introduction which gives its guaranteed shivers to a soul in distress.

Shivers which also get count by tens in the 58 minutes of this Jeff Greinke's last album. I'm not saying that I'm a fan of Dark ambient music with an edge of New Age here! But I did enjoy this journey in the territories of a dark meditative music where the acoustic instruments complete, otherwise dominate, the usual electronic panoramas of the kind. There are surprising moments in this album which remind me a little of Erik Wollo because of this cold vision which gets hide in the evolutions of the longer titles. In the end; I would have never thought of liking it. But that turned out to be the very opposite! - Sylvain Lupari, Synth & Sequences
Now I’m very new to this artist that I’ve discovered this year on the Echoes podcast with John Diliberto, is a person that is carrying the ambient/electronic sound from the mind of Jeff Greinke. He is a musician, composer, and bringing the sounds of the genre to life. He has released 20 studio albums starting with 1984’s debut release, Before the Storm, to his 21st with Before Sunrise.

He worked with Moraine’s Dennis Rea as they founded the group LAND in 1993 until 2001 after releasing three albums. And working with Rob Angus, Pierre Perret, and Faith and Disease. When I first heard Greinke’s music, I was taken aback by his usage of samples, droning, and electronics to make you enter these dark passageways that are ominous and strangely beautiful.

It was five years in the making and it showed Jeff’s acoustic side. It explores the landscapes of southern Arizona. With the usage of members playing piano, cello, viola, clarinets, and vibraphone, Grienke takes you to the night skies of the areas through the road trips of the location before it gets close to dawn.

With ‘High Flyers of the Night Sky’ you can hear the sound of droning voices of the animals and the eerie Tangerine Dream-sque soundscape of hearing those creatures in the background, giving some views of a place that be at times cold, dark, and dangerous. Austin Larkin’s violin captures those areas and Jeff goes through those walks that he goes to.

The piece of ‘Slow Train on an Open Plain’, has this tug of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht. Inspired by the high deserts and watching the trains go by, the landscape with its minimal imagery as Paris Hurley, Greg Campbell, Dylan Rieck, and Alex Guy, brings the road trip to you to embark on. You can imagine a film or a documentary of the city of Arizona during the night and seeing the trains going through different tracks, makes you feel fascinated and in awe on where they would go to next.

Greinke takes ‘Under Falling Stars’ the sound of the cellos through his keyboard, diving into the salty ocean and searching for the castles that are 5,000 fathoms below the surface and proving to be true. Jeff can help you go into those castles that can be beautiful and wonderous with a mysterious atmosphere. The ominous surrealisms of ‘Mountains & Clouds’ is a dream-like hallucination.

You can imagine yourself being at the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in San Juan County, New Mexico and seeing these badlands and strangely bizarre shapes and sizes, you as a listener begin to understand that is real and not a dream. ‘Rain, Then Snow’ creates this waking/rising piano sound for a chance to see the sun coming out of the clouds after a busy snowstorm and as you open the doors, you can hear a heavenly electronic choir for a few minutes and then it comes back to make it joyful and almost alarming.

In my opinion, Before Sunrise is a very interesting release. Now mind you, I’m not a New Age type of person, but being new to Jeff Greinke’s music, the album brings the sound and vision of southern Arizona to life. He’s been around from day one, and I hope what new ideas he might come up with next - Zachary Nathanson , Echoes And Dust

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