JOHN GREGORIUS: Still Voice (2016)
“Still Voice is a New Age album with a touching guitar and a nice melodic touch that will bring you up over the clouds”
1 Grounded in Mystery 4:07 2 Wonder of Grace 4:44 3 Fall into the Open 6:16 4 Benevolence 4:23 5 Trust 5:34 6 Still Voice 3:41 7 True Self 4:14 8 Let it Go 3:23 9 Salt and Light 2:02 10 The Dance 7:59 Spotted Peccary | SPM-1802
(CD 46:43) (V.F.) (Progressive New Age)
When I received this album from Spotted Peccary and when I read the press info, my ears wanted to run away. Multilayers of guitar tapestries which spread their musing in synth lines? No thanks! I already gave in New Age in the 80's and 90's that I wasn't very attracted by the new release from Spotted Peccary. But I have an enormous respect for Howard Givens who always succeeds to give more momentum and depth to the productions of his label. Consequently, I had to listen to this STILL VOICE. But I had to catch up my ears. John Gregorius is a very recognized musician/producer in California where he produced and played with several groups and/or artists who have an impact in the country of oranges. Experienced guitarist, he had tried a solo experience with Heaven and Earth in 2007. His style is a little similar to that of Checkfield, Stephen Caudel or Darshan Ambient. Even that sometimes, the multilayer of guitar lines and their arrangements reminded me the very quiet David Gilmour. But still there, it has been quite a while since I heard some Gilmour in solo. And in order to give well a good dose of shivers in the soul, John Gregorius held the services of 5 musicians which handle stringed and winds instruments. Not really my cup of tea but well... I finally found my ears!
The notes of a guitar hang onto a shadow of gloomy atmospheres. Some jingles invite each other as well as a bass, percussions and a piano. Grounded in Mystery begins this odyssey into the land of very firmly pinched notes of guitars with an almost lively structure of rhythm where the piano and the guitar are facing in a sober duel. While that another guitar line attacks the melody with so many more harmonious notes, the bass and the drum are restructuring Grounded in Mystery towards a ballad of which the effect of heaviness adds a rather poignant dimension. It's beautiful, but I have the feeling to have heard this music. Maybe with Darshan Ambient, for the very melancholic envelope, or still Stephen Caudel for this sort of thirst of freedom. But no matter, it's rather good to pursue. Wonder of Grace starts with guitar loops which wave like an airy folk ballad. Here, John Gregorius lays down three lines of guitars which crisscross their harmonies and their dreams on a sober play of the drum, handled by Mitch Ross. And he is doing a pretty fair job on this album. And suddenly, it's the angels who sing on this very ethereal hymn. The percussions become more rock and the guitar remains cosmic, as of a good Gilmour mood. And there, our reserve in front of John Gregorius' music diminishes little by little. I don't say that it's brilliant, but it pleases to my Lise! Fall into the Open is a slow funeral march with the voice of Kimberly Daniels, for two verses, which caresses just as much our dreams as the tears of violins. It's sometimes soft, sometimes very melancholic and it bears the weight of the world on this slow march decorated with small jewels of harmonies. It's very New Age and we easily imagine the angels to waltz tenderly on this almost funeral rhythm. Benevolence is the most livened up track in STILL VOICE. It's almost electronic with the percussions which drive and the seraphic ambiences over which John Gregorius' six-strings gets lost. From what I'm hearing since the beginning, the adventure is quite pleasing, and those riffs give a slightly rocker mood to the track. Trust is an ambient track which drags the weight of Fall into the Open. John Gregorius puts many effects of reverberations over the droplets of his guitar, amplifying the emotive impact of his music. The voice of Kimberly Daniels, who also plays the piano, gives small shivers to the soul. The title-track is a kind of mixture of Fall into the Open and Benevolence. True Self is a nice small track rather striking with good arrangements and a soft rhythm where we could see us floating in the air. The drum is as much alive than on Benevolence, but it remains an ambient melody. Let it Go is almost acoustic. It's like to bring his buddies on the edge of a brook to make an acoustic jam. Imagine the gang of Mannheim Steamroller on an acoustic mode and you have this mood here. The same goes for Light and Salt, but only the strings are on the menu with two lines of guitars. Violins and acoustic guitar; The Dance is a long piece of music as quiet and dramatic as the credits of a movie which finish on a bad mood.
We are far from the electronic, but I found that beautiful! STILL VOICE is an unpretentious album for those who like dreaming over the sound of a soft music. It's pleasant! The music is quite listenable and puts our brain off! Lise has liked it. At least that's something!
Sylvain Lupari (April 18th, 2016) ***½**
Available at Spotted Peccary Bandcamp