David Wright Oracle (2023)
Updated: Aug 16
“There's a subtle blend here of Schulze's ambient rhythms with Wright's more accessible textures”
1 Prophecy 2:51
2 Castalian Fountain 6:22
3 Temple Mantis 5:27
4 Athenian Sunfall 6:54
5 Oracle, Pt. 1 5:29
6 Oracle, Pt. 2 5:17
7 Dreams of Orion 7:54
8 The Fall Perialla 7:43
9 The Lament of the Pythia, Pt. 1 9:54
10 The Lament of the Pythia, Pt. 2 8:43
11 The Hunter 9:13
12 Return to Orion 2:25
(CD/DDL 78:19) (V.F.)
(Melodious EM, ambient Berlin School)
Hummm... How can I talk you about ORACLE? Because, if you know me that well, arias out of hummings and my ears don't always have the same chemistry. It depends on the day and, above all, on the level of my emotions. And vocalizations... there are plenty of them on this latest David Wright album he has made with the female English singer and his muse of recent years, Carys. And I'd say that if you liked Prophecy, an album released in 2017, chances are you'll enjoy the almost 80 minutes of this ORACLE. But let's leave the choice of words to David, who explains the reason for this second collaboration - I'm talking about an entire work - between his music and the Suffolk female singer's hummings. And even without these explanations, as soon as Castalian Fountain shakes the veil from our eardrums, we hear the correlation between ORACLE and the Gerrard/Schulze period of the legendary German musician-synthesist. This second Wright/Carys album is indeed inspired by those 2 years, and the 5 albums, that Lisa Gerrard and Klaus Schulze have composed and performed on between 2007 and 2009. However, the artistic approach is very different! In contrast to Schulze's improvised flights of fancy, unlocking into more atmospheric textures and in sometimes incendiary Berlin School, David Wright is more methodical in the polishing of his compositions. He's also more melodic, with rhythms that straddle the line between English electronic rock and progressive New Age, sometimes even with ambient Berlin School. And ORACLE offers nothing less than David Wright at the top of his game, with a fine array of tracks that surf between these melodious rhythms, reinforced by Carys' voice, some quiet Berlin School, tribal dance and even the fiery England School that fuels passions with the very solid track, The Hunter.
In a momentum of cinematic music, Prophecy grabs our attention as soon as a storm of wiisshh and organic hum floods our ears. From post-apocalyptic, the opening transforms into a celestial ode to Middle Eastern fragrances, with an angelic choir humming a lyrical canticle. Cary's voice rises from the delicate tinkling arpeggios of Castalian Fountain. Her vocals, sometimes sober and sometimes emotive, float over a bank of drones that slightly darken the track's ambience, until a rhythmic structure begins to leap delicately after the 3-minute mark. This structure, which moves forward like a wolf stalking its prey, is reminiscent of Klaus Schulze's Body Love years. The choral murmurs are also very Schulze. Merged with the orchestral winds, they give a dramatic impetus to a finale that sees Carys' voice reborn between twisted filaments of synth, another recurring musical ornament on the album, which keeps rolling and cooing over the track's evolution. Temple Mantis continues the rhythm set by Castalian Fountain, but with a slight accentuation in the flow. The percussions add more dynamism after the 2nd minute, undeniably reminiscent of Schulze's evolving rhythm structures of the 2000's. Twisted synth filaments twirl as randomly as ever, while Cary's surreal vocals and orchestrations, woven into hazy voices and violins, shroud the rhythm's ascent in a veil of tenderness. The final minute of the track is more darkly atmospheric, with drones, organic howls and gusts of cosmic wind preceding a beautiful, evasive synth harmony. Athenian Sunfall features an introduction sewn from the thread of upheaval. A synth melody, cut into jerky loops, opens up its dimensions. This melody twirls like arpeggio flakes in a swirling wind. If you think of Tomita's Snowflakes Are Dancing, the title track, you're not alone. You can hear those howls, like throat sounds, in the opening that is lightly beaten by explosions of percussions. Quietly, a nice orchestral texture is woven. It is supported by a gentle angelic choir, giving the music the texture of a cinematic romance. The synth wails like a guitarist scattering his pain in a structure that has become meditative. Waves roll in, percussions explode here and there, and the synth shapes a nice ambient melody in a phase of musical beauty typical of Mannheim Steamroller's very good Fresh Aire 6. Oracle, Pt. 1 emerges from that finale to continue with the Berliner rhythmic movement of the sequencer. The opening is slow to unlock. The sequences are jumping on the spot in a dense membrane of symphonic winds. Carys' vocals - some airy, others high-pitched - soar over an opening which gradually embraces the progression of Temple Mantis. Arabian orchestrations encircle the track with slow movements that contrast with the rhythm. David Wright is pensive, and this is how he lays down a beautiful melody that drowns in lascivious hummings. The arpeggios tinkle lonelier to bind Oracle, Pt. 2, which takes root in a catchier structure to become a cross between England and Berlin School to where a good undulating bass line is grafted on. At this point, I wonder if Carys is just too present! But as I said above, it depends on my moods and my mental disposition to hear it. But regardless of my moods, David Wright has been filling our ears with damn good music since Prophecy opened. Especially as the singer is nowhere to be heard on the next 2 rather atmospheric, meditative tracks on ORACLE.
Dreams of Orion follows with a cosmic bent. Winds, or waves of interstellar oceans, dominate the musical stridulations at the beginning, until a carousel of shimmering arpeggios gives way to a delicate, sleep-inducing lullaby. The flow and intonation of the lullaby vary slightly, while retaining its poetic texture which is enhanced by distant angelic voices. The music and its moods are in constant progression, reaching a level of dramatic intensity around the 6th minute. A beautiful track in which light and semi-darkness merge in a musical poetry without borders. The Fall Perialla explains all the charms of a Berlin School-style ambient rhythm. A melodic rhythm close to Schulze's inspirations that is stamped by synth layers piling up with varying degrees of emotion, especially when this synth illuminates the ambiences with jets of stardust and wiisshh. Here, the slightly chthonian choir embraces a nice, a discreetly luminous synth wave, giving the music that little veil of Middle Eastern mysticism. The subdued explosions in the final third of the track add a dramatic dimension to a finale that is more celestial. There is also a layer of ethereal vocals lost in the reflections of arpeggios whose screeching and circular shimmering guides us back to the opening of The Lament of the Pythia, Pt. 1. The inspiration of the dunes and of other Middle Eastern settings is more palpable here, especially with the texture of tribal percussions which is grafted onto electronic percussions and a bass-line sculpted in order to sustain this rhythm, which gradually becomes a kind of fusion between clan dance music and a light electronic rock. It's a sustained, a driving rhythm for dreamy neurons. Especially as Carys' voice, which has chased away the subdivision of fluty odes and sharp harmonic synth solos, is counterbalancing the electronic side of the music from its New Age vibe around the 2:30 minute mark. Her voice hums with inspiration over this rhythm, which now hops from ear to ear in a harmonic symbiosis between the twirling dance of the circular movement of crystalline arpeggios and the keyboard riffs. Bass and percussions come back into play around the 3-minute mark of The Lament of the Pythia, Pt. 2. The moods are darker with the lower timber of a male chorus. The arrangements are more present in this segment, as is the synth which throws some beautiful and melodious solos. In addition to being more melodic, the balance is perfect between the Suffolk female singer's voice, the synth harmonies and the arrangements. From track to track, ORACLE progresses, both in its rhythms and its arrangements, reaching its pinnacle with The Hunter, which is a heavy England School-style electronic rock. The rhythm combines spiral heaviness and slowness with a good mixture of the percussions, the sequencer and the synth bass. The result is a heavy, a finely jerky flow, as if in a stroboscopic effect. The arrangements and orchestrations are tasty, wrapping the structure in an absolutely seductive slow motion. An electric guitar texture, I presume because I don't see any guitarist collaboration in the album, is voracious and throws some furious solos that melt into the tones of the synth and its solos. Sequences guide the rhythm as much as the electronic harmonies, while subtle organic effects complete a rich sound setting that challenges our ears. It's hard for Carys to harmonize her atmospheric aria with such frenzied music. But she succeeds, and the impact is best felt in the short, less rhythmic phases. And all this leads us to Return to Orion, an atmospheric cosmic finale that ends another excellent musical odyssey from David Wright, who continues, since his 2018's excellent Stanger Days, to offer us original material of the highest quality.
Although very beautiful and at times undeniably important to the music, Carys' voice is a bit too omnipresent! But that doesn't detract from ORACLE as a whole, which is a splendid album featuring a highly inspired David Wright in this ode to the Gerrard/Schulze period of a musician Wright has always held in high esteem. This is the right way to approach ORACLE! The music is unbelievably good and beautiful, with passages that we listen to again and again with happiness coming out of our ears and emotions. Isn't that what's important?
Sylvain Lupari (August 11th, 2023) ****¾*
Available at AD Music
(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)