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About Falling Light
Falling Light is the fifth inspired instrumental release on the Lotuspike imprint by award-winning ambient artist Darshan Ambient (aka American-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Michael Allison). The trademark hypnotic and heartfelt style that has come to define all Darshan Ambient releases is certainly present here in the skillful use of multi-layered percussion, synth textures, bass, and guitar grooves. Allison’s unmistakeable compositional style is in top form, delivering thoughtful melodic phrases and themes with a familiar atmosphere.
Picking up where 2011’s Dream In Blue left off, which skillfully straddled a delicate musical line between ambient and jazz, Falling Light finds Allison moving more towards an almost ambient Americana sound at times. The deliberate use of lap steel and slide guitars blended with synth textures that seem to stretch to the horizon, brings to mind visions of wide open spaces, big skies and endless possibilities. As Allison says, “It’s very visual. There are some beautiful lap steel guitar sounds that I used a little on the last album, but wanted to completely feature on this one; they add a gorgeous twang to some of the tracks. There are a few tracks dominated by the use of piano, but most have the wonderful sound of the lap steel/slide guitar — very dreamy.”
Michael Allison effortlessly crosses many musical borders journeying throughout this remarkable Darshan Ambient recording; From the opening jazz-tinged title track, the melancholy Mark Isham-esque trumpet of “Small Blue Ones,” the hypnotic groove that surfaces in the midst of “A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky,” the soul-searching depth of “The Immense Window,” to the closing classically-inspired choral fugue that is “Forgotten Sky.” With it’s warm washes of ambient color and elegant melodic passages, Falling Light blazes a trail into the wondrous hues of an ambient Americana sunset.
In the perfect world that exists only in my head, Darshan Ambient (aka Michael Allison) is on tour right now in support of his new disc, Falling Light, backed by a band of top-notch studio musicians and filling intimate clubs and small venues, and I have a chance to see him play live. It almost literally stuns me that Allison, a musician who so perfectly and so often straddles the borders between jazz, contemporary instrumental, and New Age music, isn’t getting the metric ton of respect and exposure he deserves. This is not hyperbole, this is fact, and a single foray into Falling Light will bear it out if you’ve got any question. Building on the sturdy jazz foundation of his previous superb release, Dream in Blue, Allison continues to lay down catchy, inspiring songs full of depth, inner meaning and a mighty dose of soul. Not in the funk sense, but pure, deep-down human soul. His signature is a masterful blend of catchy hooks and riffs paired with quiet synth pads that drift like dreams under the music, and it’s fully packed in here. “Out to Sea” opens with the pads, giving way to a simple phrase of four notes, then six, then four again, on piano. With each fresh pass, Allison gently lays in more elements–a sighing pedal steel guitar, the round, rich tone of fretless bass, and more. It’s wonderful in the way it embraces its simplicity. This sense–working off a central phrase that holds still as the music grows in pieces around it, comes back frequently. On “The Night Coming Home to Sleep,” piano takes center stage, speaking the phrase, accented with guitar and smooth washes. “To Look At In Winter” works off a simple scale run on piano while Allison piles in the layers. At the start, there’s an interesting and unexpected touch of vinyl crackle.
In listening to Falling Light, keep in mind that this is all Michael Allison. Every note, every instrument. Here he is, playing the Isham-esque trumpet in “Small Blue Ones.” He comes in after another hushed-dawn open on synths, playing a slow song. A jazz-perfect rhythm section folds in to keep time and pick up the tempo while the trumpet keeps its own pace in counter. One of my favorite tracks here, and not just because I’m an Isham fan from way back. Here he is tearing it up on a vocoder-sounding guitar on “Second Thoughts,” bolstered by a snappy backbeat on drums. (If you’re looking for the funkier version of the aforementioned soul, here it is. Come ‘n get it!)
With its (in my opinion) widespread crossover appeal, Falling Light is a shoo-in candidate to top the various Best Of lists for the year and would, in a perfect world, catch ample airplay not just on the various niche/New Age programs out there, but in the jazz-based mainstream as well. Make no mistake: this is a superb, amazingly constructed disc by a very, very talented musician. It’s got that Sunday-morning-music allure, laid-back and pleasant enough for a casual listen with your coffee, but is also strong enough, in the pure musical sense, to satisfy intent listeners.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back into my perfect inner world to catch Darshan Ambient & Band at a local club.- John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
If there is an artist whom I appreciated to discover these last years it has to be Darshan Ambient. With a very eclectic approach Michael Allison succeeds in doing a meshing of a music to the tributaries of folk and neo-folk styles, caressing slightly some jazzy, even bluesy, aromas to offer an inspired and inspiring music. Imperceptible and unclassifiable, the music of Darshan Ambient floats in the ears to reach the soul by taking on the skin of an author torn by risks of everyday life. Surfing on the harmonious and melancholic furrows of his very beautiful Dream in Blue, Michael Allison lays bare his tramp's soul with “Falling Light”, a collection of 12 poems bared of words but not feelings. Words with musical timbres wrapped of an inviting dust filled by the fragrances of our torments where the delicate spiraled rhythms are swirling with a mesmerizing cerebral attraction.
The title-track gets out of the void with silvery reflections which sparkle on the walls of time. Piano notes wave and twirl slightly, seeking for a beat when it falls softly. "Falling Light" offers its soft and indomitable rhythm. An electronic ballad which gallops like a ride without legs, turning of his its melodic spiral in the breezes of a spectral melody and under the knocks of percussions which try of accelerates a rhythm trapped in angels' caresses. Sparkling dusts and vapors of an alto sax à la Mark Isham dragging around uncertain ambiences of Patrick O' Hearn, "Small Blue Ones" abandons its oniric intro to burst out of a pure and curt rhythm. This most livened up portion of “Falling Light” borrows the vague tunes of an apocalyptic country-western music with these chords of a slide-guitar which float on a structure hobbling of its nonchalant rhythm, offering the best of Michael Allison's harmonious dualities. Knocks of bow cut the stillness of a morning mist, molding a furtive rhythm which ignores the passive melody of a melancholic piano, as well as the dreamy chords of a solitary guitar; "A Boat beneath a Sunny Sky" is the first pearl that our ears meet on “Falling Light”. Following an evolutionary curve, this shy movement is flogged by a soft staccato which is fed by knocks of bow that are more and more incisive. This lascivious rotatory movement espouses a more rock phase with percussions and bass which nourish a tempo to irregular paces. Absent until there, the lap-steel guitar spreads its layers which float and roam such as souls lost on a strange procession of a bolero to ambiences of bluesy-jazzy country music. "Out to Sea" brings us at the doors of contemplativité with a piano droning out its nostalgia in the breaths of a dreamy guitar. A guitar which presents its vampiric tones on "Second Thoughts", which sounds as if it's got out of some lost chords of "Falling Light" so much the structure is very near. The rhythm is soft. And the harmonious portion is deployed by a guitar which delirious with its numerous intonations. Then, we enter into the enchantress world of “Falling Light”.
"The Night Coming Home to Sleep" introduces us to the lullabies and the ambient ballads of Darshan Ambient's last effort. Here, no rhythm. Only notes of a dark piano droning out its evasive melody that a lap-steel guitar is courting from its ochred laments. A guitar which strikes down the soul on the cosy "Clothed In Wakefulness" and its morphic melody which swirls such an angel on a bed of stars. "Who Will Answer" is another beautiful musical caress which begins by a hesitating movement. The guitar chords are hanging around in boredom, joining ringing carillons, while an immense mist caresses the wandering. And bang! The tempo grows heavy with loud percussions, molding a slow dance for angels. A slow dance for us who are looking around, and this from our eyes and our heart, the loved one. "To Look at In Winter" is yet another delicious ambient nursery rhyme which shakes up our emotions with its duel of serenity between a dark piano and a nostalgic guitar. "The Immense Window" is the pearl of pearls on “Falling Light”. You have to hear this piano which is crying on the strange tears that perturb the delicacy of silence. It traces its way! The pace is soft. Worn by percussions and its delicate strikings of broom sticks and a lazy bass line, it swirls with the sweetness of a silk carried by the winds of Eros. While the piano continues to draw the tears of remorse, the guitar comes to cover this cerebral sweetness of fine spectral layers, feeding this superb title which reaches its emotional pinnacle with an angelic choir. It's really very beautiful. After an intro of duality between a piano and a floating guitar, "Water for Horses" changes the tempo of “Falling Light” by offering a more sustained rhythm. It's a slightly jerky ride which walks of its curt steps on an imaginary plain drawn by these enveloping violins which embrace the hybrid moods where the piano and the guitar unite their melancholic chords to weave another melody that will haunt our ears, as it's raining since the silvery reflections of the opening track. And it's with a little darker, even tenebrous, note that ends this last Michael Allison's offering. Borrowing a funeral march sculptured in the shade of the astonishing "The Immense Window", "Forgotten Sky" concludes “Falling Light” like the credits of a disturbing movie about a life which ends in the sighs of angels. And unmistakably, we grab the CD player remote and push on key 1 in order to listen again to this last and brilliant opus of Darshan Ambient.
Far from the psychotronic spaces of an EM of the Berlin School style, the music of Darshan Ambient shines with its irresistible eclecticism. On “Falling Light” Michael Allison is a charmer who multiplies the layers of his steel guitars to shape tones of loving metal around delicate lullabies which find their sources in the inexhaustible tears of a melancholic piano. New Age? Not really! And then … The important is that it's beautiful. And it's precisely more than beautiful. This is great music that will shake your emotions and will rock you up to the window of your dreams.- Sylvain Lupari, Synth&Sequences
Veteran composer Michael Allison has been a staple of the ambient/electronic scene for many years, and "Falling Light" shows him moving ever closer to well-structured songs, rather than simply mood pieces. The title track opens this 12-song, 60-minute journey, and it's an upbeat, even rhythmic bit of light and airy ambient pop. "Small Blue Ones" brings some trumpet and mystery, all the while remaining optimistic. "A Boat Beneath A Sunny Day" sums it up well, another magical and wondrous journey with lovely swells of guitar, synth bass, and piano. "Clothed In Wakefulness" could be a lullaby of sorts, while "The Immense Window" is a drowsy, gorgeously fleeting moment that lasts 7 minutes, complete with choral voices and piano.
"Falling Light" is an album of proto-ambient pop songs, and this set of mature instrumental tunes do well to illustrate that times of hope and positivity need not be sappy nor saccharine. Well-done.- Todd Zachritz, Goatsden
Michael Allison is a veteran muso, starting in the 70's as a singer, then playing bass in bands as varied as no Nona Hendryx and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. His influences include 70s prog icons Miles Davis and XTC. In the 90s he began focusing on ambient/new age music, subsequently assuming the Darshan Ambient moniker. Falling Light is his sixth release.
Alison's masterful manipulation of sound and use of varied instrumentation keeps this work above the new age genre's oft-sterile trappings. Moods explored here range from delicate contemplative fare to spacey chill-out journeys, as well as melodic dream-pop and rhythmic electronica. The album has a soothing, lush feel overall, Allison putting his multiple talents to work via guitar, bass and even a bit of trumpet. Processed drumbeats are used sparingly, and inobtrusively.
Michael's progressive and jazz influences manifest in the way certain pieces are structured in contrast to the purely ambient fare. These agreeable variations, as well as intelligent use of a texture and atmosphere, make Falling Light a well rounded listening experience vs. relegation to mere wallpaper music.- John Patrick, Progression Magazine