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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

PATRICK O'HEARN: Ancient Dreams (1985)

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

“The music of Patrick O'Hearn is unique and its melodies are simply mesmerizing

1 At First Light 5:40 2 Beauty in Darkness 4:37 3 Unusual Climate 4:35 4 Life along the River Vaal 4:50 5 Ancient Dreams 6:07 6 Malevolent Landscape 4:53 7 Last Performance 1:54

Private Music ‎– 1201

(CD 32:27) (V.F.)

(Synth-Wave, Down-Tempo, Ambient)

Former bassist of Frank Zappa and former keyboard player of Missing Persons, Patrick O'Hearn landed in the fields of EM with a surprizing first album. ANCIENT DREAMS already had a notoriety, and this since its release, since it came from the new label of Peter Baumann, former member of Tangerine Dream, Private Music. The American press, in lack of artistic knowledge on the field of EM, cataloged the universe of Patrick O'Hearn as New Age. I have never agreed! In fact, we never found the right vision to describe the originality of the Los Angeles bass player. I would say that his music is the antithesis of free jazz and of tribal music with a strong penchant for a cinematic vision considering his dark and dramatic structures. A music as unique as its tone and its black romanticism. A romanticism barely detected on this first album but that we will discover a little more with Eldorado and Indigo.

Percussions suspended in the night meet fine keyboard chords and At First Light initiates this astonishing sound fauna that supports the polymorphic rhythms of ANCIENT DREAMS. Without rhythms, and precise melodious lines, At First Light evolves in musical spheres steeped in paradoxes and harmonious fragments tingling and resonating among a panoply of percussive elements and sudden musical spasms that burst forth under undulating bass notes and tick-tack a bit hypnotic. Designed to please, Beauty in Darkness is the first melody to emerge from the world of Patrick O'Hearn. And again, the rhythm is also ambiguous with its tabla-style percussions that draw a mesmerizing tribal rhythm. A rhythmic approach that will become Patrick O'Hearn's signature within time. The game of synths is all in nuance. From flute blasts to celestial voice tones, this synth structure a harmonious approach that fills spontaneous but still quite harmonic rhythmic bursts, pushing Beauty in Darkness towards a dramatic final. Unusual Climate adopts a rhythmic pattern difficult to discern. Slightly jerky and barely explosive, it wriggles in an amazing percussion fauna. Percussions rich in strokes and eclectic tones that sparkle and frame a synth linked to a soft lyrical and harmonic line. It's a title with a particular rhythm, just like Malevolent Landscape and its big Be-Bop arched on percussions with rich tones of glasses and its rhythm which advances stealthily.

A bit in the same vein as the introductory track, Life Along The River Vaal is simply superb with its strange rhythmic approach where sudden symphonic and dramatic bursts. They shake the lightness of the harmonies, created by suave synths and guitar chords, so to merge in an astonishing melodious paradox. The title track is the first title in Patrick O'Hearn's repertoire to have me seduced. And for good reason! Grave piano chords jump and lead an amazing synth with celestial breaths. Angels' voices blow a great timeless melody that percussions tear with great blows of rolling drums. The opposite of the synth and its soothing symphonic presence. Built with a crescendo vision, Ancient Dreams evolves with dramatic intensity and multiplies the thrills and sighs of the soul. Simply beautiful! Dark and melodious, Last Performance is a short ballad that concludes this first rendezvous, quite short I must say, with the heterogeneous universe of Patrick O'Hearn.

With its ambiguous rhythms and melodies scattered in a rich percussion fauna, ANCIENT DREAMS can seem difficult to tame. But the discovery is worth it. His music is unique, and his melodies are simply haunting. Like me, you'll fall for the title track, then for Beauty in Darkness and the rest will follow. It's like discovering a magical universe behind a forest with a thousand sound mysteries.

Sylvain Lupari (November 8th, 2011) ***½**

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