Stephen Bacchus "Hinterland" CD
Stephen Bacchus, a Canadian composer based in Ontario, is most likely best know for his participation on the famous "The Ambient Expanse" CD, a collaborative project featuring iconic names such as Steve Roach, vidnaObmana, Vir Unis and Patrick O'Hearn, where he appears on "Point Of Safety" track with guest contribution by Steve Roach. Yeah, great memories awake, these were the golden days of ambient movement. This is dated back to 1998, around that time Canadian label Mirage (a division of Oasis Productions) released several highly acclaimed CDs by renowned or newcomer artists such as vidnaObmana & Jeff Pearce, MaJaLe & Vir Unis, Robert Scott Thompson, Danna & Clément or Stephen Bacchus. I am missing so much these good old days. The guy behind Oasis Productions, a label, which is still active, is Grant Mackay and he is also an artistic entity hidden behind the moniker Stephen Bacchus. Stephen Bacchus discography includes around 6 solo albums plus several collaborations and split releases with other artists, like already mentioned fellow Canadian artists Mychael Danna and Tim Clément. Grant Mackay was active also under his real name, when releasing during the last decade numerous recordings on Earthaven (another sub-label of Oasis Productions) focusing solely on wildlife field recordings. With "Hinterland", deeply influenced by Canadian wilderness, Stephen Bacchus again searches for his own composing insignias. Released during September 2016, the CD comes in a 4-panel digipak with extensive liner notes.
"The Undiscovered Country" immediately shifts the listener into tranquilly embracing sceneries, where crystallinely tinkling traceries commingle with warmly nuanced, slightly orchestral vistas. Rather shorter intro shows the path, which leads towards more peaceful new age terrains than those more nebulously piquant. Poetic piano droplets on "When I Am With You Again" merge with nostalgic reminiscences, later metamorphosing into joyfully cascading melodies. The compositions on "Hinterland" are shorter and quite numerous, counting 20 pieces with total running time 66 minutes, thus the overall feel is to my taste less immersing, it rather works like a collection of small introspective stories, although strongly connected by its natural environment, no matter if melancholic or euphoric. "Destination" reveals with ethereal poignancy, magnified by romantic arrangements. "Nostalgia For The Future" attracts with its catchy blend of zither-like strings and bowed strings arrangements, with little touch of Far East fragrances, and hauntingly emerging evocative blankets. Exactly in this 3-minute composition I wish its length would be longer. Among the following pieces, "Beauty In Caves" gets my instant attention due to its more ambient-infused mood, where sweeping cinematic layers commingle with spirited undulations and exquisitely gossamer shimmers. One of my fave compositions so far! "No Regrets" is announced by drifting surroundings, but the scenario is soon stolen by permeating piano notes amalgamated with glimpsing bowed strings and flamboyantly narrative patterns. "My Expression", as displayed its title, brings to the center stage poetic piano minimalism merged with gently illuminating textures. "Up Ahead, There's A Signpost" reveals with more enigmatic subterranean intro, but then again slowly slips into more poetic, yet graceful dimensions, peppered here and there with climaxing traverses and transient spatial embellishments. "Days Of Dreaming" glides on the wings of intangibly expansive sublimity, while undulating lyrical miniatures persistently pervade across. "Friend Of Doubt", with 4:21 the longest track on "Hinterland" again merges more spacious background curtains with expressive nuances and romantic motifs. "Miniature #2" explores calm sounds of piano and harp with some ascending celestial washes riding atop, then inconspicuously transmuting through symphonic glimmers back to soothing cinematic terrains. Hissy nostalgic tides of "Getting Above The Clouds" are counterpointed with lachrymose reflection. "The Edge Of Remote" merges lushly ear-tickling organics with balmy exotic aromas. The title composition "Hinterland" is filled with epic orchestral movements, occasionally enriched by wildlife quietudes. The most melodious tune "All Roads Lead Home" closes this album in a quite delighted tone.
I appreciate so much the glass mastered digipak format of "Hinterland", kudos to Grant Mackay!!! If you are searching for relaxing, new age-driven soundsculptings, don't hesitate to explore Stephen Bacchus wanderings though picturesque untamed Canadian wilderness. Just keep in mind, it's by far more poetic and romantic flavored than ambiguously adventurous. Although "Hinterland" is probably the most matured and sophisticated recording of Stephen Bacchus, to my ears, his most remarkable releases remain "Ambient Origins (Collected Early Works 1983-1987)" (CD released on Mirage in 1998) and "Etherium" (CDr out on Oasis/Akasa in 2006), both for its mostly enigmatically dissonant and contemplatively immersing soundcarving.
Richard Gürtler (Nov 06, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)
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