Stubbleman: Mountains and Plains (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

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Great River Road
Stubbleman: Mountains and Plains (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

The great and diverse landscape and the lure of the road with the freedom it offers has been a constant in American life since white settlers arrived and wondered what was over the horizon.

Great writers and filmmakers have been seduced by it, Native Americans understand it, people plunder it and Europeans often are in awe of the sheer spaciousness of the country and the huge sky is lies beneath.

Pascal Gabriel – aka Stubbleman – is a producer (various duties for Dido, Kylie, Inspiral Carpets, Can, Ladyhawke and others) but on this album is seduced by the broad back of that continent and writes a series of travelogue, ambient instrumentals which attempt to capture some of the spaciousness and mood.

With synths, pianos, bass and a variety of keyboards, he also leans on predecessors in the field of such sounds (Mike Oldfield, Neu, early minimalist work by Reich, Glass et al, various Japanese electronica artists and open highway soundtracks).

Does it evoke the specific places which name the tracks (Moonstone Beach, Griffith Park, Taos Twilight etc)? Not so much, says one who has traveled through those landscapes and to such places.

Griffith Park has a twilight evocativeness which is appeal – you can imagine the images of that place at dusk, midnight and dawn – but if there is a journey here it is extremely slow and sedate. Distances or speed are seldom evoked (Badlands Train about driving across the plains of Texas is mostly like a float on a water bed) and his preference seems to be a contemplative moment (Abiquiu, Taos Twilight).

It's no surprise to learn that Stubbleman is presenting this music with footage he's shot, but it won't be edge of the seat Easy Rider stuff but beanbag viewing.

Pleasant enough, but sometimes pleasant isn't enough.

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