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Jeff Pearce

Rainshadow Sky 2008 CD $15.

Jeff Pearce's latest solo release is a collection of unedited compositions recorded direct in live performance. Because there are no microphones, the CD has a "studio sound," but with the spirit and energy of a concert. The pieces are relaxed and meditative, but not sleepy. Jeff has made a name for himself as an "ambient guitarist," but this release, together with 2005's Lingering Light, clearly show that he's finding just as strong a voice on The Stick.

His ACTV-2 equipped 10-string sounds like two deep baritone guitars slowly interweaving, one voice calling out the next, in a thoughtful conversation. The pieces makes use of different compositional and electronic "devices" to drive them along and distinguish one from the other. The title track, "Night Path" and "Deluge" all rely on a delays (not loops) to establish a compelling rhythm, but rather than hang out in one chord or key, Jeff expands and shift the harmony ever onward, with some surprising turns. "Sorrow in Spring" an "A Secret to Hide" are all about space; long notes linger, waiting for just the right place to continue on or turn back to a previous theme. Most of the pieces are in minor keys, which feels like we're meant to be anticipating the oncoming winter more than reveling in the warm colors of fall. Amid the bleakness come major chords, rays of sunlight bursting through.

"Autumn Clouds" is a lilting mid-tempo waltz with deep lingering reverberations. Here Jeff makes great use of the dynamic qualities of the instrument to "punctuate" the tune. "The Last Warm Day in October" rings like church bells, and "Harvest Storms" fades in like a rising wind, ominous clouds billow in. There are some sounds, some chords and colors that keep recurring, like certain scenes in the Indiana landscape where Jeff resides. This riffing on a theme could get old, were it not for his ability to turn us at just the right moment and show us what we've not seen yet - the "more than meets the eye." like the little filtered melody line in "Deluge", darting across the landscape like a flock of southbound birds, and then the rain breaks with pounding percussives.

Greg Howard

Rainshadow Sky is available from Stick Enterprises and CD Baby you can hear sound samples form the disc at: cdbaby.com/cd/pearcejeff2

Online reviews of Rainshadow Sky: www.windandwire.com by Bill Binkleman Rainshadow Sky Review
New Age Reporter by RJ Lannan: Rainshadow Sky Review

Lingering Light 2005 CD $15.

If a Stick had a sustain pedal it would probably sound like this. For the entirety of this record each note trails off into airy long-decaying reverberations. There is a concept at work here, that if one does something long enough, if one makes it such an essential element of one's craft, then it becomes one's style, not just a device. Art, not artifice.

Whether this ambient cloud, which pervades throughout this meditative, patient solo Stick record, is the "Lingering Light" that inspired the title is anyone's guess. It's certainly an apt metaphor for the omnipresent soundbed. At first, this ambience can distract you from the music that make up Jeff's compositions. Then it becomes clear that it is an essential part of Jeff's "instrument," and that the pieces depend entirely upon the string's vibrations and their electronic reflections washing together, wave after wave. Ultimately these long waves remind me more of water than of light. They are ripples from falling leaves landing in a pond, one after another. And when they stop, eventually, the surface will calm, eventually. But there?s no hurry. This is a record that makes me feel like I've got all day.

Jeff writes simple major and minor chord progressions that gradually shift and flow. Lightly interwoven melodies emerge and merge with each other. They are so stylistically similar that the record in effect becomes one long composition with several short movements. This actually serves the meditative sound quality quite well. My favorite track is #11, "Her Heart Holds Winter, Unforgiven," probably because it stakes out the most adventurous harmonic ground on the record. But each track has some soft turn of phrase that distinguishes it.

The magic in this record lies not in the compositions themselves but in the overall effect. The sound is deep and dreamy. Like an extended-scale nylon-string guitar, Jeff's ACTV-2 equipped Matched Reciprocal 10-string is the perfect vehicle for his pieces. The soft attack and pure fundamentals ring over each other (and ring and ring). His playing includes a lot of interaction between the hands, with occasional doubled notes or tight clusters, creating the same effect of open tunings on guitar. I find it hard not to try to deconstruct his technique, and because the pieces unfold slowly and delicately, that's not so difficult to do.

Ultimately, I think the lingering light is the mental echo of a phrase I heard a few songs back. The lyricism of these pieces is subtle, like a recording of wind chimes slowed down by half, so that we can hear the play of the wind, and discover in it some momentary pattern. Though I'm not finding myself humming the tunes, each time I go back through and listen, they remind me, these gentle mantras, of the first time I heard them. The slight change at the end of a repeated phrase, the patient rise of a melody line. The moments when a surprise chord comes bounding through, waking us from the dream, but only for a moment and we are right back in it, drifting off with only the slow vanishing of the image inside our eyelids to mark the time.

Greg Howard

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