Eban Schletter: Frontiers

sch-f.jpg Eban Schletter: Frontiers
(Netherota - 1998)

If the pieces on Frontiers by Eban Schletter sound like the score to a spooky movie sequence, that's probably because of Eban's background in film and TV. And here's an interesting special effect - instead of relying on extreme processing and bizarre sounds, Schletter creates his magically dark atmospheres with expressive arrangement of relatively straightforward instrumentation. Mood music (with an emphasis on the music) for twisted times.

Entering passages, the listener finds an eerie atmosphere with sparse musical effects and hissing breath. A flourish of synth chords erupts, as do subtle tinkles, and later, brassy swells. Other sounds are worked into the ever-changing mix, including bells and a wavery, theremin-like oscillation. Quite theatrical in presentation, the woodwind and brass sounds which lead to discovery (5:01), set another stage with ominously-lit apprehension. Strings join in the form of frantic little plucks and sonorous sheets. The brass re-enters in a majestic layering, like light cascading down upon some incredible find, which may or may not be something wonderful. A chorus of female ahhs close the piece.

Rythmic and rousing, spirit dances (11:28) passes through many variations in its evolution. The track opens on staccato percussion and a spritely xylo-tune, which leads to powerful strings and a grandly blaring pipe organ. String and flute delicately take their turn with the main phrase. Flutes of all varieties gather to form their own little babble, followed by spacey whistlers in the night. Harpsichord passages add finely-wrought pre-colonial touches, before the automated rhythm and string section return to finish what it started, in a stirring crescendo which degenerates into scattered twinklings. Subtle metallic tinklings add even more mystery to the darkly looming swells of brass and strings in transition, another cinematically unfolding musical scene. In the disc's "weirdest" interlude, a shimmering electronic miasma is accented with tiny horn honks and sweltering vocal ahhs. The waves of brass again roll like a cold, powerful sea, and a flurry of icy tinklings fall to close the track.

Whistles, bells, clunks, a shaker rythym, bass, hawaiian guitar and harmonica/accordian lead come together in a sultry outing, the delusion dance. A smooth intro, despite so many bits and pieces stirred into the mix, at least until the layered horn blares and bongos muscle in. The track returns to its original hazy state with lots of pattering beats scurrying about. Very interesting! Long flows of vocal ahhhs (contributed by Laura Milligan, Schletter's collaborator on other projects) and a dreamy keyboard riff with light brushy percussion give excavation a dig-ably lounge/Twilight Zone feel. Laura's oohs and ahhs are layered and relayered for a closing chorus of resonant siren sounds.

Perhaps my ears have grown unaccustomed to overt "musical instrument" sounds; it took a few listens to allow Frontiers to truly work its magic upon them. Schletter's arrangements are evocative and interestingly structured... and garner a well-deserved 8.5 for his talent and efforts.

Hear it with your own at the Frontiers web page.

This review posted March 25, 1999

AmbiEntrance © 1999-97 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).