Michael Stearns M’Ocean (1983)
Updated: Sep 20
“M’Ocean is an inescapable musical work where poignant and intense ambiences influenced a whole musicians' generation”
1 Sirens 5:32 2 Marriage Chords 9:36 3 M'ocean 9:36 4 Lightplay 7:06 5 Vicki's Dance 5:24 6 Fireflies' Delight 10:22 7 Walking Song 2:28
Sonic Atmospheres 109 (1984) GROOVE| GR-047
(CD 46:38) (V.F.)
(Ambient melodious music)
With Mike Oldfield's Incantations album, M'OCEAN's got to be the most beautiful music that I heard. How not let us be enthralled by so much luminescence which glitters around rhythms lost in musical settings decorated by thousand of tones with the brightness of diamonds? It's been a while since I want to talk to you about M'OCEAN, but each time I was intimidated at the idea of approaching this chronicle. I wondered how to find the right words and how to formulate my phrases to describe aptly all the beauty which is hiding behind every note of this Michael Stearns' extremely poetical work. M'OCEAN is a symphony of luminosities and iridescent tones which irradiate on passive rhythms and oceanic ambiences of which the eddies are weaving enchanting seraphic structures. It’s a wonderful album soaked with an abyssal magnetism to the multiple crystal-clear tones which glitter as pearls of water on the blades of fire from a burning sun, creating a superb mixture of oneiric and sibylline moods over paradisiacal rhythms.
A first surge from bottom of the sea comes to snatch us, and Sirens entails us in the abyssal ravines of M'OCEAN. The intro is nuanced between its lyrical layers and others darker which undulate in the swirls of crystalline reflections while the descent is striking of a morbid reality, like a drowning in the lands of Poseidon. And there, the nymphs of the bluish depths let hear their singings of astral mermaids with tones which sparkle as prismatic songs in the Eden of immortal exhilaration. And as on the great majority of the structures filled by glimmering musical mirrors, the morphic envelope of Sirens sings to us the infinity between the light of the darkness and the total blackness of its bites in order to vanish in the abyss. It's like to be sucked up by the nothingness. With its synth lines waltzing in indecision, Marriage Chords caresses delicately our senses. Soft sleep-inducing impetuses, floating as astral jellyfishes on a twinkling bed of starfishes, weave a lakeside reverie which draws its strength from the slow undulations of strata from which the iridescent outlines run aground on a cosmic bank. These waves which withdraw from sands are slightly bubbling and implode of their fine whitish particles in a splendid soporific whirlwind, awakening the thoughts of the majestic title-track which melts in our ears with all the harmonic presence of M'Ocean. Guitar riffs and delicate percussions lift this poetic rhythm which sparkles of its thousand musical prisms, tickling fine passive undulations which let themselves carried away by delicate waves of surface. And M'Ocean to swirl lasciviously around a bass line with elongated silent notes, plunging into seabed and scattering the debris of a submarine fauna which sings of its million prismatic particles.
Lightplay deepens, with all the dramatic intensity, the melodious portion of Sirens' second half. It's an extremely poignant and powerful title where mermaids sing, whistle and chant in a twinkling torrent of synth layers in a heavy moving crescendo. If the first part is bursting out of emotion, the second entails us towards a more melodic stream where shine thousands of crystalline tones, as sea bees around the hive of Poseidon. Some soft silvery tinklings get through the aquatic dunes, guiding Vicki's Dance towards voices of Shamans which cast the spell for the dance of shady waters. The rhythm becomes dense and adopts a heavy rotatory movement which displays its sequences as rhythmic swashings around an ephemeral spiral. Despite the movement’s power, Vicki's Dance preserves all of M'OCEAN oneiric cachet with a finale as much poetic as the poems of the marine nymphs. With all its sequences which crisscross and swirl in a stunning immortal dance, Fireflies' Delight decorates M'OCEAN of an apotheosis finale. The intro floats of its glittery veils, awakening one by one some sequences which swirl around a sober and dramatic bass line. The fireflies are fluttering and spinning with the grace of their suppleness, creating a slender swirling wave which widens its exhilaration in a delicate musical tumult where Caribbean percussions and passive swiftness preserve all the harmonic ease of a finale which let's predict that life comes from oceanic tears. Walking Song, a reprise of an Igor Stravinsky's title, ends a powerful opus of which your ears will ask for more, again and again, for years to come.
Innovating with a first hybrid synth (Oberheim OB8) which catches and restores all the depth and the nuances of an art divinely lyrical, Michael Stearns pushes away the limits of the astral musical poetry with an album powerfully poetical that has words only its immense magnificence. M'OCEAN is a work apart where no comparison holds. On the contrary, it's the album that has influenced a whole bunch of a musicians' generation and of which the influences can be hear a lot on almost everywhere in the chessboard of the contemporary EM. This remastered edition, released by Groove back in 2000, reflects finally all the depth of this grand musical work which had shaken a handful of initiated during its first version in 1983 under the title of Light Play. It's an inescapable work. A classic of ambient and melodic EM and if you still don't have it, tell yourself that you are definitely missing something. It's Heaven beneath Oceans, beneath emotions!
Sylvain Lupari (September 26th, 2010) *****
Available at Groove nl