I have to confess that harmonica led jazz is not my normal area of expertise, but that’s fine, it just means that I get to drop my bag of well-worn indie clichés and pop puns and approach the music like the wide-eyed music lover that I have always been. And there is a lot to love here.
The album is nothing if not musically exploratory and a wonderful reminder that music is just as expressive in telling stories as lyrics are. The slow build and percussive drama of Cold War, the sweeping grace of Nirvana, the skittering, the fractured beauty of Danilissmo and the more traditional beats of Prepared Prayer all evoking images and setting scenes far better than any words could.
But music is a transaction between the composer and the listener and without the limitation of words, the music paints pictures and conjures ideas and scenarios that are limited only by the listener’s imagination, irrespective of the composer’s intentions, you are the interpreter here, this is your dream. In just one listen I saw galaxies dying and being reborn, nighttime city streets, I viewed the world from the top of mountains and I swam in its deepest oceans. All that and I hadn’t even had breakfast yet.
And the idea of music as a film score or even an acoustic story in its own right is further reinforced by the tantalizing use of found sounds, street conversations, running water, random noise and other sonic minutiae from everyday life. Maybe this album is a film waiting to be made, a role reversal that sees the music dictating the story rather than following its lead. I’m not sure what those would look like but I know I would be at the front of the queue for tickets.
Musically, Hidden Landscapes draws lines connecting South American landscapes with sophisticated European jazz clubs, others which link chilled soundscapes with ambient film scores and then it connects places and thoughts, emotions and stories that have no business being connected. Stare at the pattern of those lines for a long time, and then shut your eyes. The stars dancing behind your eyelids is the music of this outstanding musician.
Music has many varied functions, some is designed to fire you up ready for a night on the town, some is a chilled wave to relax to, some inspires you to change the world, some gives you an escape from it. This is more like the music of the isolation tank, music which requires your complete emersion, demands that you just exist within it, become one with it, heavy meditation, a solitary experience. Some music is aimed at the brain, is intelligent and intricate, some at the heart, emotive and alluring, Hidden Landscapes does nothing less than aim for your very soul.