reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
The Olympic Peninsula in Washington state is a world away from downtown New York, but the two link Eric Phillips’ first album as Kennebec. Suffering from the sensory overload that many can experience in one of the world’s most vibrant cities, Phillips and his friends were looking for an escape, and their time in the Northwest gave them not just solace but musical impetus.
Phillips is now based in Portland Oregon, but Departure will serve as a musical diary of his Washington sojourn.
What’s the music like?
Departure is the result of two years’ musical endeavour, but rather than sounding like a long, laborious piece of work, it is notable for its freshness. The wide open textures speak of pure musical and mental freedom, while the rich selection of instruments and textures suggest a complete lack of restrictions. The musical language is open too – with electronica as a loose base, Phillips and friends explore Western musical forms but are open to inclusion and variety.
In the course of its 35 minutes Departures makes good and imaginative use of Mirabai Peart’s violin and viola, with a silvery tone the base for Kalahari and some nice, multiple string work on A Monsoon. Phillips also uses the ngoni and kalimba in the course of his musical explorations, as well as classical guitar – all of which he plays himself. They give tracks like Pipe Dreams and As We Grow Older a rarefied air.
Add to this some imaginative studio-based rhythms and you have a flexible style of music that rewards several approaches.
Does it all work?
Yes. Departure works from several musical angles. Electronica lovers will enjoy its fresh approach and freely cast rhythms, while traditional music fans will appreciate the sensitive blending of different styles. This is fusion of genres at its best, done in a way that needs no labelling at all.
Emotionally the music is very open, reflective on occasion but imbued with a fresh energy at others, as though the creator has emerged from a particularly good and invigorating night’s sleep. Spend more time with it and it will have a similar effect on you, the listener!
Is it recommended?
Very much so. Departure works at either end of the day and provides the opportunity of a clean and clear mindful state for its listeners. Think of it as a palette cleanser and a fresh approach, and you will take plenty from its charms.