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Larochette, Nathanael: Earth and Sky

Sometimes people ask me questions about the seemingly confusing array of genres and subgenres within heavy metal music. Perhaps the most puzzled questions and comments come from people who discover that some musicians actually turn away from heavy music (at least for a time) and produce ambient compositions of one sort or another. I don't have a ready-made answer at hand for these questions but I usually fumble through a response that has to do with expanding one's horizons, learning to play outside of one's genre, or hoping to connect with listeners in new and fascinating ways.

For some listeners, this album may come as a surprise but I think most people will embrace it for its simultaneous beauty and calm. Larochette, a classical guitarist, who has shared his talents in other settings (most notably on the last Agalloch album), now offers fans an extended encounter not only with his contemporary compositions (something of a rarity for classical players) and his smooth and clear technique. I've been playing the classical guitar for over 20 years and I listened to this album with excitement, mostly because the instrument always needs more attention and because I wanted to hear compositions by someone outside of the usual suspects. It would be awesome if Larochette published the sheet music for these pieces. It would be fun to learn how to play these tracks; it would also be nice if fans of classical guitar could hear these pieces.

Even though there are only 7 tracks, Earth and Sky is a double album. Disc 1 includes the first 6 tracks but track 7 ("Sky") takes up all of disc 2. Unlike the classical guitar pieces, "Sky" isn't showing off guitar talent exclusively. This is a 40-minute ambient track with some other instruments and sounds on display. I like ambient music in general and this piece grabbed my attention (in the more accurate sense, it sort of grabbed my attention). Like Brian Eno's own pioneering work in that genre, "Sky" knows how to flit in and out of consciousness, when to invite attention and when to wander away from it. For those unfamiliar with Eno, his interest in ambient music came from his own sense that some music need not always engage listeners at a direct and intensive level. Put another way, ambient music suits the ways our minds (and our attention spans) work. This is not to say that we shouldn't pay attention to the music but that the music won't demand that we do so. It is more than background sound even if it often remains there.

This is a terrific new album from an artist worth discovering.

Track Listing:
1. Awaken
2. Monument
3. Farewell
4. Oceanic
5. Invocation
6. Slumber
7. Sky

Added: September 13th 2016
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1490
Language: english

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