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Michael Garrison - In The Regions Of Sunreturn CD (album) cover

IN THE REGIONS OF SUNRETURN

Michael Garrison

Progressive Electronic


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Guldbamsen
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2 stars Mandolin Jean

A tale of fan-boys turning into the very image of their adoration pt. 1.

I thought I'd start a little cavalcade of artists who find themselves inspired and perhaps even more so absolutely smitten by Tangerine dream - up to the point of unhealthy lunacy, where it's hard telling them apart from the original maestros of Berlin School electronics.

I'd prefer to start out with Michael Hoenig's somewhat cult album Departure from the Northern Wasteland, but my fellow reviewer Neu!mann(Michael) just did so, replicating my sentiments beautifully and right down the t. A mirroring album that saw Hoenig's short stint in TD fulfilled to the max, and to an almost nauseating effect.

This is however American electronic artist Michael Garrison's debut album we're focusing on here, although like Wasteland, you have an uncanny ghostly presence of TD soaking through everything here. Programmed sequencers, ARP synths, moogs galore and a wafting expression that keeps everything airy and floating like elegantly dancing smoke signals. If anything, this foresees the albums Mr. Froese conjured up during the first half of the 80s - such as Underwater Sunlight and Hyperborea - only In the Regions of Sunreturn and Beyond was made in '79. So what we have here is actually a TD replicate with the unforeseeable foresight of a musical Nostradamus conveying the future of the electronic style of music to come. May sound like a big statement, but unlike the avant genre that practically went into overdrive producing a majestic string of albums all through the decade, electronic music became sedate and in danger of being an infinitely spawning cornucopia of blandness and soggy cheese. This album saw it coming, and for that it deserves a little respect.

The only thing separating Garrison from Froese, is his academic approach to the synthesisers. Mind you, I am speculating here, but to this listener it sounds like he's received classical training - either on the piano or another form of instrument with the keys right up front. You hear his natural preposition for the orchestrated big and luscious - almost akin to the symphonic at times. It's actually these parts of the album that I enjoy the most, because in there beneath all of the familiar TD antics, you have a wonderful pianist and composer.

For example, starting the record here makes you think that you're getting a carbon copy of TD, and when you've finally lost all hope in encountering that little bit of uniqueness, you suddenly hear Garrison's swift hands relegating some sparkling well orchestrated melodies on the second cut. This is his force - those flexible elegant hands generating to-the-point and catchy melodies that seem to come from out of nowhere. When he tries to echo the traditional trademark of Froese, the spacey meandering synth soundscapes that are meaningless and obscure - aiming for something intangible, - he fails miserably.

Still, there's something here, and maybe I am just too much of a sucker for breezy space electronics wafting overhead me like sails in the wind, but I actually like this far more than what I give impression of. So please take this rating with a grain of salt, especially if you're a fan of Berlin school electronics. This is music that I can listen to for days on end, but it is perhaps one of the best examples of the collectors/fans only rating.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#787568)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
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3 stars Michael Garrison was an Oregon based electronic musician who emerged at the end of the 1970's, initially making a splash with his debut album `In the Regions of Sunreturn'' in 1979. Mr. Garrison operated at the more melodic end of electronic music, often along the lines of Jean Michel Jarre or an even lighter version of the 80's Tangerine Dream albums, with a focus on pleasing instrumental melodies and tranquil atmospheres. Fortunately the album has just enough to align it with the proper space music albums of the Seventies, and the artist thankfully got in just before the endless faceless glut of soft electronic and New Age albums enjoyed a burst of popularity in the Eighties. His debut may not be particularly complex or challenging, but it also doesn't deserve to be thrown in with those vapid kind of albums.

The opener `To The Other Side of the Sky' sets a template that much of the album follows - soft pulsing beats over placid washes of ambient synths and easy on the ear instrumental synth melodies, often with swirling effects. `Escape' drifts the closest to synth-pop with a catchy upfront lead theme and skittering beats. `Dreams' is soothing, `Twilights Return' even has a whimsical, almost rollicking quality in it's step. A pretty and delicate drift opens `Theme To Onday', but the piece quickly bursts forth with classical flourishes, Garrison soloing wildly with restrained pomp and fire. Despite the clicking sequencer throughout, the same goes for `The Voyage', which is almost a victorious fanfare, confident and purposeful, dramatic and symphonic, rather dazzling in it's own way.

The most interesting moment on the album is `The Distance From Here', certainly the most ambitious piece. Completely devoid of percussive elements, there's a quietly contemplative and almost mournful loneliness to it's glacial drones of sweeping synth winds and expansive aural landscapes. Garrison shows a great deal of restraint here, hinting at a mostly unexplored depth. More thoughtful pieces like this would have made the album something really special.

Michael Garrison went on to release another 8 studio albums and two live compilations up until 1998, but the artist sadly passed away aged just 47 years in March 2004. His seemed to be a life plagued by mental illness and depression, but his music was a constant source of hope and inspiration, not only to listeners, but seemingly to himself. Lightweight but lovely, `In the Regions of Sunreturn' is an undemanding and comforting electronic release to help you unwind and refocus. There may be endlessly more exciting and important albums in the progressive electronic field, but there's still nice little works and artists like this worth discovering.

Three stars.

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Send comments to Aussie-Byrd-Brother (BETA) | Report this review (#1323703)
Posted Saturday, December 13, 2014 | Review Permalink

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