MICHAEL GARRISON: A Positive Reflecting Glow (1992)
Updated: Jan 31
“For me, this is an essential compilation in any music library”
1 Escape (From In the Regions of Sun Return) 4:38
2 Festival of the Earth-Star (From An Earth Star Trilogy) 4:29
3 Departure (From Eclipse) 3:53
4 Runaway (From Prisms) 4:14
5 Reflections (From Point of Impact) 5:48
6 Magnetic Wind (From Aurora Dawn) 4:51
7 Airborn (From Eclipse) 11:23
8 Carry On (From The Rhythm of Live) 5:47
9 Upon Blue Heaven (Previously unreleased) 6:34
10 Distant Island Stars (From Images) 4:14
11 Lansdowne Cruise (From An Earth Star Trilogy) 4:16
Windspell Music – RG 92CD
(CD 60:15) (V.F.)
(Pacific School, Sequencer-based EM)
Who said that electronic music (EM) was not lively? That it has no life, no rhythmic horizons? One should strap them in and let them hear this amazing collection of super catchy tracks found among the 8 albums of the late Michael Garrison. We're talking about analog rhythms coming out of the drum machines of the old organs or even the synthesizers of the time. Even if the sound shows its age, it remains very catchy. And enveloped by these harmonious organ and synth layers, it adds to the pleasure of being carried away by the EM rhythmic patterns of the Californian synthesist. A POSITIVE REFLECTING GLOW is part of these two compilations released one after the other, the other being Tranquility Cove, that the label Windspell Music put on the market in 1992. This compilation takes a track or two from each of the American musician's albums and offers an unreleased track that is quite delicious. It's getting harder and harder to get hold of Garrison's albums these days, but Ron Boots assures me that his collection can be found at Groove nl. So, good news for those who are going to discover a little more of this Pacific School pioneer's universe.
You can hear the percussive rattles fluttering in the opening of Escape. A bouncy bass line joins this rhythmic ceremony. Its speed is good, but it's the synth layers that propel the rhythm with tonal organ scents and harmonic fluids. The structure reveals some nice surprises that only embellish the richness of this track nestled in In the Regions of Sun Return. Festival of the Earth-Star begins with drumming à la U2's October album. They shape a rhythm that has aged poorly but is still tasty with the jerky flow of the pads. Michael Garrison pampers his rhythm with melodious interventions and solos that adopt the harmonic and rhythmic curves of the title. Departure is a good spirited track with a galloping structure like the arrival of the cavalry. The structure offers good stereo effects as well as a slight vocal line that supports the rhythmic impulses. The middle break, where the rhythm takes another tangent, is the best moment with superb synth layers and harmonic solos. One of the good tracks of Garrison. Runaway is in the same vein, but with a less rich envelope and which makes less Jean-Michel Jarre. The layers are divinely harmonious on this track which does not hesitate to change harmonic skin. After a similar start as in Escape, Reflections jumps awkwardly and develops a very good melodic approach on a keyboard with rhythmic pads. The melody takes the form of a tribal anthem from a nearby planet. Garrison had a lot of dexterity, and he proves it with an amazing performance on his synth and keyboard.
Over frenetically dancing taps, Magnetic Wind offers a hyper jerky rhythm, which is not danceable to me, that synth pads and layers are following without having any trouble sustaining their harmonic visions. The envelope is very cosmic and let's just say it ties in quite well with the opening of Airborn where a series of circular riffs pave the way to a heavy and lively rhythm. This track that comes from Eclipse, just like Departure, has that analog flavor as strong as the good moments of In the Regions of Sun Return. A bouncy, driving rhythm that is overlaid with divine synth layers that stretch into harmonious solos. This is true cosmic rock with a texture very close to Escape. Carry On belongs to the previous album of this compilation, The Rhythm of Live. Like in Escape, its speed is good and it's the synth pads that propel it. The sound seems divided here between analog and MIDI, giving a more robotic musical texture. Upon Blue Heaven starts with sumptuous orchestral strings that have this analog dimension. The rhythm bursts after the first minute with a fluid flow of the sequencer and percussions having that luscious hungry rattlesnake tone that sounds more like in Rendez-Vous 4 than on Oxygen. The melody is incredibly engaging with an evolution that brings it to a superb mutation after the 4th minute. For an unreleased track, it's a quite one! That sounds like Garrison's debut here. Distant Island Stars picks up on those rattlesnake tones attached to the percussions in a bouncy rhythm with the minimalist pulsations of the bass line. The layers are harmonious and extend solo-like harmonies that are interspersed with stark pads. The envelope is of oxygenated haze whose nebulosity makes these solos that add up over the course of the track stand out even better. Lansdowne Cruise is the second track to come out of the An Earth Star Trilogy album. It is a track with a rhythm supported by a good bass line, sober electronic percussions and keyboard riffs. The whole forges a robotic dynamic in ostinato mode. There are few harmonies on this spasmodic structure, except for the repetitive keyboard chords that find a short empty space to sculpt a brief texture with a semblance of melody.
From brisk rhythms to more fluid cosmic rock, then staccato to ostinato rhythms, A POSITIVE REFLECTING GLOW glances over the rhythms that animated Michael Garrison's albums between 1979 and 1991. Some of these rhythmic anthems will sound familiar to you, and that's possible so much the American synthesist has influenced the world of EM in Europe. For me, this is an essential compilation in any music library, if only to counteract the false claim that EM lacks energy.
Sylvain Lupari (January 28th, 2022) ****¼*
Available at Groove nl