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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Erik Wollo & Michael Stearns: Convergence (2020)

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

This is the meeting of two artists whose opposing styles couldn't hope for such a zenith in order to create an astonishing unexpected complicity

1 Triptyk 10:12

2 Ruins of the Past 7:34

3 The Way Ahead I 5:42

4 A Solitary Place 8:13

5 The Nomad's Journey 7:13

6 Somewhere in the Distance 7:13

7 The Way Ahead 2 6:15

8 Subterranean Canyon 6:42

9 The Herald 7:39

10 Cirrus (Postlude) 5:41

(CD/DDL 72:14) (V.F.)

(Progressive ambient Music)

What a great album my friends! A musical rendezvous with Erik Wollo and Michael Stearns just can't be refused. We are dealing here with two veterans of the EM scene in these ambient forms closest to our roots, as far from our desire for introspection. Leave that to others! The others are them. Both are solitary spirits. One is sedentary who likes to travel, the other is a nomad who drags his Siberian lyricism in his backpack. Two magnificent musicians who are responsible for dozens of albums that touched us, that moved us from all over the world. Ambient panoramas created from the stars, like form the oceans where a Norwegian guitarist deposits the icy sighs and tears of his steel guitar, CONVERGENCE is the meeting of two artists whose opposing styles couldn't hope for such a zenith in order to create an astonishing unexpected complicity.

The opening of Triptyk plunges us into the Scandinavian ambiences of Erik Wollo with his guitar tears which spread in a sibylline chorus which struggles to contain his tears. The movement is slow and we feel this coldness gradually melts as the shimmering layers of ocean water sparkle more and more and a bass line and two to three muffled steps of the sequencer, creating the illusion of keyboard riffs, sculpt the ambient rhythm of Triptyk. On the harmonic riffs of the guitar, Michael Stearns has woven a form of sonic lasso that he makes twirl around this semi-ambient structure, thus creating the illusion of a rhythm which takes off. And take-off it takes place when a cloud of enchanted fairies flap their wings to drag the title into an illusory dance world, while guitar and keyboard forge a musical rainbow that lights up our ears as much as our soul. A particularly good title which opens a completely splendid album if the ambient folk or progressive ambient are your cup of tea. The introduction of Ruins of the Past reminds me of the taciturn moments of Darshan Ambient. Guitar notes flow one by one in front of a veil of ambiences woven by the shimmering synths of Michael Stearns and the tears of the six-string from our Scandinavian bard. The evolution of the title takes place at the level of its intensity, like several titles in CONVERGENCE, which draws its muffled impulses in a radiant sound mass coming from the textural convergence of the duo Wollo & Stearns. The Way Ahead I offers an ambient Folk-Gypsy texture. Although catchy, the rhythm waltzes with rudimentary orchestrations including a violin and its staccato which tears these ambiences subdued by the campfires, defying the guitar and its harmonic riffs. The more the ambiences come alive and the more its staccatos ignite, but everything remains in the forbidden gaiety of the gypsies. There is an intense wrapping horror movie vibes in the texture of A Solitary Place which is an ambient title heavy of its prismatic ambiences. The synth pads oxygenate the ambiences with iodine vapors. Everything is in suspension, like these sibylline voices which float in ocher radiance. An acoustic rhythm makes us nod our heads; our ears amazed by these percussions imitating the walk of a horse on stone in a texture which amplifies its stranglehold on our attention. There are great arrangements here, like these orchestral layers which rise and engulf us in an obscure tunnel where no one will find us.

A title like Erik Wollo offers often, The Nomad's Journey is inspired by The Way Ahead I, but in a more rock vision when the elements are unleashed. Guitar tears and synth pads engage in a furious fight whose only winner is the enrichment of ambiences. The acoustic six-string of EW traces splendid provisional ballads on this intense track, as if the wrath of the heavens were still at their tips of chords. And it is precisely in the rain that Somewhere in the Distance counterbalances by offering a stylized ambient texture à la Michael Stearns. The terrestrial elements weep under oblong flexible reverberating rods where astral luminous filaments cling. Everything is delicate here, like this flute mutating into a voice and its opposite when it's not the two visions crying under the heat of the reverberating drones. This is Pacific School at its best! The Way Ahead II recovers all the musical warmth that radiated in the troubled waters of its first part to sculpt one of the most beautiful moments of this album. Multilayers of guitars that add up in a voluptuous linear crescendo, the music is the spirit of a stroll among the nymphs and elven landscapes whose horizons forge the radiant echo of this ambient melody, slightly tinged with a sibylline paradox. A paradox just to throw in the sketch of an intriguing avenue that begins around the 4th minute to lead us into an intense final. Subterranean Canyon is a nice ambient title with a series of riffs and their echoes which resonate on the pulse of bass pulsations. This rhythm in non-rhythm becomes a kind of Gaelic procession which is covered of mysteries in a splendid duel between these ethereal gothic murmurs and the slow orchestrations which release a slight earthquake in staccato. Subterranean Canyon goes through two phases of intensity in this astral journey which is one of the jewels of this album. After an introduction of shimmering effects, The Herald falls for good ambient tribal folk with many textures of manual percussions. A bit like in The Way Ahead I, we perceive a bohemian essence in an intense passage that the effects and the big synth of Michael Stearns bring back the music to the well of its ambiences. Four minutes of seraphic ambiences for an astral explosion of 2 minutes of this quality, I take! Two great artists like Erik Wollo and Michael Stearns couldn't leave us without leaving a calling card in our hearts. This card is Cirrus (Postlude)! Its static maelstrom finds a gentle slope to release its prisms and colors from the ocean floors unique to the one who gave us M'Oceans. Observer, Erik Wollo makes his notes which flow in these ethereal waters drag until he finds the right tone in order to sculpt a last melody which lies, plucked in these strings of loneliness, until it dies in my ears. A splendid album, period!

Sylvain Lupari (August 17th, 2020) *****

Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp

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