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(64:26, Dreaming Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. One 5:17 2. Two 4:47 3. Three 3:25 4. Four 5:48 5. Five 2:39 6. Six 5:39 7. Seven 2:10 8. Eight 2:37 9. Nine 2:54 10. Ten 4:31 11. Eleven 4:01 12. Twelve 2:55 13. Thirteen 3:50 14. Fourteen 3:54 15. Fifteen 7:49 16. Sixteen 2:10 SOLO PILOT: Marc Carlton – all instruments
Prolusion. Marc CARLTON is an English musician and composer who has been active for a number of years now and issued his first album back in 1998. 2005 saw the release of his fifth production "Reflex Arc", and in 2008 the album was re-released by Dreaming Records, a sub-label of Musea Records.
Analysis. Music with leanings toward progressive rock just as much as new age is the specialty of the Dreaming label. And to the best of my knowledge it is among the first to concentrate on this particular niche market: music with a focus on producing dreamy atmospheres yet complex enough to warrant interest by listeners looking for music to listen to rather than just than to be utilized as a sonic backdrop for meditation and daydreaming, although most releases by this label will be more than suitable also for the latter. In Marc Carlton's case we get a new twist and unique approach to this kind of music, not overly original or complex in itself, but certainly much more so than most releases covered by the new age description. Synths and guitars are the dominating instruments in this production, while percussion and drums in particular have mostly secondary functions as providers of dramatic effects, pace keepers and to some extent contributors of drive and tension. Many tracks will start out with a keyboard dominated exploration, one or two fluctuating layers providing an opening theme of sorts, on most occasions in a lush and mellow atmosphere. On a few occasions acoustic guitar licks are given the same role. The composition then either evolves or hits a distinct break, with either guitars or keyboards slowly or suddenly taking over as the dominant instrument or rather instruments. From this point on the songs will consist of a multilayered, and at times complex, sonic tapestry, with one or two dominating guitar or keyboard layers providing most of the drive and melodic elements, while one or more fragmented sounds from the same instruments will add additional textures. As for the guitars, Carlton tends to opt for undistorted or acoustic ones on this production, apart from soloing passages there aren't too many instances of distorted electric guitar to be found on this album. As keyboards go, synths, piano and organ are used, the latter rather sparingly. Quite often three distinct layers will be provided and explored in a song: one light and floating, one dark and placed back in the mix and one mid-range fleshing out the composition. Due to the multiple layers and sounds used, most tracks comes across as rich and highly textured, even when the general atmosphere is one mostly dreamy and mellow. Many passages have symphonic qualities to them, not surprising given the compositional approach. There are a few tunes where the pace and intensity are cranked up a bit as well, tracks Five, Eleven and Fourteen in particular, although describing them as energetic would probably be an overstatement. Finally, the somewhat uncreative naming of the individual tracks on this release is probably due to the fact that the album is actually a single composition broken down into 16 segments. The individual parts can be enjoyed as individual pieces, but it seems clear that the intent of the composer is that this production will yield most rewards when listened to from start to finish. Personally I found this album to be somewhat of a mixed affair, with half the tunes exploring moods and atmospheres I felt were intriguing while the other half, although well made and performed, didn't have that much of an impact. A good album in general, with quite a few compelling moments, but nothing really spectacular.
Conclusion. "Reflex Arc" is a creation utilizing keyboards and guitars to explore a musical landscape somewhere in between new age and symphonic rock of the mellow variety, with strongest leanings toward the former. People into new age types of music will probably be ones who find this production most intriguing, but followers of mellow symphonic rock might also take an interest in this album, in particular those who prefer instrumental compositions.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 11, 2008
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