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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

COMMON GROUND: Common Ground (2015)

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

“Between Hollan Holmes and a dark form of ambient music from Resonant Drift, Common Ground will let you have good moments of ambient music”

1 Many Voices 10:07 2 Finding our Way 5:52 3 Spirited Encounter 6:36 4 Ancient Whispers 4:50 5 The Apollo Frequency 6:06 6 Edge of Tranquility 5:54 7 Tempest Rising 8:31 8 Long Voyage Home 5:53 9 The Ties that Bind 6:58 Common Ground Music

(CD/DDL 60:42) (V.F.) (Pacific School Ambient Music)

After the album Incandescent, Hollan Holmes has joined Bill Olien (synths, samples and drones) and the guitarist Gary Johnson, to form the project Common Ground. For the story, Bill Olien and Gary Johnson are the duet Resonant Drift that has realized 7 albums of ambient music since 2004. This union for the less promising gives an album where the very poetic touch of Hollan Holmes on synths and sequencer is linking to the symphonies of hollow breezes and drones in contrasted tints from the American duet. And this first album left me a good imprint in my ears which had to tame at first this abrasive color of the multi-lines from the synths and the guitars of Resonant Drift.

It's with avian vocal exercises that begins the immersive adventure of COMMON GROUND. These chants, shouts and dialogues of paradisiac birds are pecking at one dense veil of heavy mist where waits a first hatching of the sequencer. Already, the wealth of the ambiances in Many Voices floods my ears ready to confront this new project of Hollan Holmes and his buddies from Resonant Drift. The sequencer loosens a circular line which makes its wide circles with fine oscillating nuances, while a line of bass gives us shivers with its harmonious and rhythmic perfumes of Patrick O'Hearn beneath a sonic sky which gets fill of luminous streaks and of another layer of mist a little more seraphic. Finding our Way follows with an ascent of warm layers which crack out and let leak out streaks, then strata full of opaline squealing. One has to get used to it, because the cradle of the enigmatic vibes of this album takes shape here. The ample undulations of the more or less hollow breezes meet a thick cloud of jingles which tinkle and resound as in a sort of spasmodic electronic dance before the symphony of breezes seeks to take back its rights. There is a lot of intensity in this track and behind the bulwarks of ambiences of this eponym album of this new band. In fact, these ambiences would rather serve a title like Spirited Encounter! Except that here a guitar crumbles its notes which resound on the ice floes of mists and its vertical waving lines which dance slightly and sparkle in their curtains of contrasting tones as in the most inexplicable auroras borealis. The mass of sound is very good, as well as this song whistled by sharp breezes which by moments is giving me shivers to the core of my emotions. And at times, I imagine a solitary wolf howling under a Scandinavian full moon. Is it normal that I think of Richard Burmer here?

Ancient Whispers is a title with a tribal spirit born of an intense dance of percussions. Still here, this shrill chant that has pierced the mists of Finding our Way is as much effective as these percussions of which we have difficulty in discerning those more tribal of those more rock. This duel between these synth scarlet lines and others darker and/or warmer is overflowing on this huge fall of synths' lines and waves that has darkened the introduction of The Apollo Frequency; a linear track which develops slowly with a compact tone of minimalist ambiences. Then Edge of Tranquility follows with a movement always linear on where is agglutinating a carpet of humming and of more radiant synth lines, cutting out at cold the solitude of both sound entities. Tempest Rising proposes a crossing of warmer vibes where from emerge these lively and jerky structures of rhythm, like these movements of spasmodic sequences on Steve Roach's first albums. The tones are changing with continuous squealing, but the rhythm is always hooked to it with the coming of percussions and of bass pulsations which add to the wealth nevertheless sowed well by a music which arrives just in time here. Long Voyage Home is like a long odyssey of a desert taken by diverse storms which put some sand in the linear breaths, and which are translated by diverse tones. And arrived here, I have to admit that The Ties that Bind comes just in time. Its sonic envelope is clearly warmer, thus ended these sibylline airs and breezes where I heard this thick cloud of crystals frozen while it was whistling these lances of spar. The synth waves are warm and charismatic in the ear and the diverse tinkling which adorn this décor of the Pacific are stolen in the beauties of Finding our Way. There where these dusts of crystals took exactly root, and which give to COMMON GROUND this cachet which distinguishes it from other albums of the same genre.

Sylvain Lupari (March 17th, 2018) *****

Available at Common Ground's Bandcamp

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