J. Arif Verner's music is full of the ‘sense of wonder’ which is the hallmark of successful spacemusic. Although not connected with any planetarium show or ‘program,’ this album suggests starscapes, galaxies, and open skies, as well as more earthly scenes evoked by the sound of ocean surf – which, forsome reason, doesn't sound like the cliché it usually does in this kind of music.
Verner's playing, both on synthesizers and on guitars with some percussion, is firmly based in the ‘psychedelic’ or ‘mind’ rock music of the Sixties and Seventies. This is the rather ‘intellectual’ kind of playing, especially on the guitar, that you could hear back then from people like ‘Spirit,’ ‘Country Joe and the Fish,’ Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane, and some years later, Greg Lake of ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer.’ The harmonies are resolutely modal, borrowing from this type of rock as well as from folk music, though there is no actual ‘folk’ element in this album. He has help from a team of other percussion players, and in two cuts is also accompanied by the celestial zither-playing of ‘Laraaji.’
One of Verner's virtues is his variety. He can approach a sound with a driving, Euro-rock-style rhythm in some pieces, and then in the next cut can melt back into delicate traceries of guitar and reverb-soaked mystical synthesizer chords and twinkles; he's not afraid to play softly. He also adds in some science-fiction style electronic special effects. One of my favorites is where his synthesizer zooms up through the harmonics sequence, an effect he does in cut 5. Nothing in this album is dissonant or difficult – this is music for comfort, not challenge, a light touch rather than a ponderous weight. If you like dreams, drifting, timelessness, and soft infinities, this is the album for you.
By the way, though only 9 tracks are documented on the album cover, there is a little extra tenth track, a short musical afterthought, placed about 3 silent minutes after track 9.
- Hannah Shapiro, EER