MICHAEL STEARNS: Morning Jewel (1980-2000)
“What we have here on this Morning Jewel is a wonderful moment of deep and haunting ambient music”
1 Morning 27:15 2 Jewel 23:08 Groove|GR-039 (CD 52:22)
It took time, but I eventually entered in it! I had to pass through the fights of the farmyard's pride to finally enjoyed this delicious Michael Stearns' ambient album. Initially written and realized in 1979, MORNING JEWEL is an album which was fast gobbled up by the New Age and meditative music market. Became out of print soon after its release in vinyl and cassette formats, the opus knew a second breath in CD in 1983 and was finally dusted and remasterised in 2000 on the Dutch label Groove. In spite of the very positive criticisms, MORNING JEWEL remains a rather underestimated album, the press and the fans preferred to talk much more of Chronos, Planetary Unfolding or still Encounter. Nevertheless, it's a very beautiful album of ambient music which drew most of the main lines of his immortal M'Ocean.
Morning begins like a hot morning gilded by the rays of sunshine. Chirpings of birds decorate the awakening. One would easily imagine to be on a Sunday morning in the city as in the suburb, or still in countryside as in forest, even in a rain forest, with this symphony of birds' singings which enchant the ears. The music is soft with slow synth layers which pile up and scatter, such as clouds fleeing the fire of the sun, letting filter a soft seraphic choir which caresses the concerts of the birds. The synth injects gleaming reflections which sparkle of one thousand sonic prisms while quite slowly we hear deaf pulsations beat a slow rhythm which pulses like a slow death. Suddenly, the listener falls over to another universe. More noisy, and rather uncomfortable, the sonic motif of Morning dresses itself of a strange rustic envelope where we hear a fight of roosters roarings in a farmyard where some children's whispers and the rustles of their activities hide the sweetness of a musical act as much poetic as the tears of M'Ocean. This short noisy interlude dissipates little by little, pushing literally Morning in an intense ambiospherical crescendo full of passion and drama with a concert of pads from a synth full of sonic colors as much paradisiacal than their morphic enveloping embraces. Sounds of footsteps stay and get lost without degrading all the submerging sweetness of the 2nd portion of Morning which spreads a sublime sonic monument of ambiences in a long quiet passage where the discreet harmonies which swirl in a passionate spiral are scattering some sonic crumbs which will serve as rampart to the sublime M'Ocean. Very good and that would be the paradise without those sound samplings of the pride of the roosters. But I guarantee you that one gets used to it and that we forget them! Jewel is a magnificent ode to serenity so dear to the repertoire of the American synth wizard who, little by little, unveils his bonds with the waters and the cosmos. Some slow and morphic synth layers are floating like winds which murmur solitude, scattering lines of seraphic voices of which the piercing chants caress the bitterness of the loneliness. It’s as much intense as poignant and Michael Stearns spreads a sublime sonic pallet with soft synth layers which glitter and sparkle in a deep ambient movement where the Earth's crust kisses the stars. This is a great lesson on the art of building ambient music as much meditative as melodious. It's beautiful to hear these synth lines to sing and cry, unfolding moments of morphic tenderness whose equivalence I still don't know to this day. Certainly, I can say that this is the cradle of Chronos or M'Ocean, but I haven't listened Planetary Unfolding nor Lyra Sound Constellation yet, except that the whole thing inhales so much the charms of these two albums. It's very beautiful and suddenly I don't think any more of the roosters!
Sylvain Lupari (March 8th, 2014) ****½*
Available at Groove nl