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Mike Oldfield - Light + Shade CD (album) cover

LIGHT + SHADE

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

2.76 | 143 ratings

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thief
2 stars It took me a couple of days to actually sit down and listen to "Light + Shade" few times in a row. It's no easy task, we have some 82 minutes worth of music here, separated in two CDs; allegedly the key idea was to make two contrasting sets, one mellow and bright, the other darker in mood and disturbed. Frankly, I don't see a dramatic difference between each other. Let me explain.

All compoistions are instrumental and could be described - if you are into genres - as a cross between electronica and new-age, with some parts as minimalistic as ambient music. Sometimes there is a bit of spoken word or unintelligible choirs, but not serving as lyrics per se. Oldfield is definitely trying to set moods rather than tell a story or deliver a message. As we know it's nothing new for a middle-aged master. "Songs of Distant Earth" and parts of "The Millenium Bell" largely fit the same bill, one could even argue that underlying ideas of "Light + Shade" are common to most of Mike's work. But I'm afraid this time he dropped a ball.

I don't think there is much going on in here. Music is very laid-back and doesn't progress too much. By listening to first twenty seconds (or so) of any song you already know how it's gonna sound in the middle and the end. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I'd gladly include half of numbers from "Light + Shade" in my chillout/writing session/morning coffee playlists. "Angelique", "First Steps" or "Sunset" are worth mentioning on this occasion. Soothing textures of pianos and synthesizers, downtempo beats, some trademark twangy solos here and there. Simple, but pleasing acoustic guitar melodies and occasional Celtic waves serve the same purpose.

But there is the other side of a coin, plenty of songs getting old quickly, either because of annoying repetitions ("Our Father") or TOO much Ibiza. He was still clearly influenced by house/trance scene of the time, so whenever he goes that direction, music reaches amateur scifi/cyberpunk movie soundtrack levels. If anyone is familiar with a PC game from the Y2K, Deus Ex, you'll understand what I'm raving about here. "Slipstream" is probably the best example of that route.

In my opinion Oldfield too often treads a thin line between a tasty chillout/ambient and simple elevator music. Listening to "Surfing" I feel like it would be a fitting background for 1990s infomercial on waterproof watches.

I've also mentioned there is not much of a difference in atmosphere between Light and Shade here. Please listen to "Tears of an Angel"; that song is very representative of the whole album for couple of reasons:

- although it's featured on Shade CD, it fits perfectly with Light tracks, definitely the same mold

- the intro brings together irritating violins and very generic choirs for no good purpose - it just dissipates after 30 seconds, never to be heard again

- on a plus side, guitar lines are pleasant, but not earth-shattering, completely in line with the rest.

Honestly there is a fair bit of unnerving melodies here, now when I think of it. "Romance" is a very distasteful cover and "Nightshade" is another piece of poor sci-fi soundtrack. It also brings down my rating a little bit.

I see "Light + Shade" as compilation of downtempo, chillout tunes, very good for yoga or playing chess - save for a few annoying tracks. It's not that advanced composition-wise and certainly doesn't approach the vision and magnificence of "Songs of Distant Earth". However, those looking for a minimalistic background with Mike's guitar and New Age touch will probably find some pleasures here. Thus, two stars is justified.

thief | 2/5 |

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