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


Michael Garrison

Progressive Electronic

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Retired Admin
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.

Report this review (#787568)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
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.

Report this review (#1323703)
Posted Saturday, December 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars For every big name in musical innovation there are always countless followers who ride the wake of the pioneers. Yes spawned the imitators Starcastle, bands like Genesis found an army of too close for comfort followers such as Babylon as well as an entire sub-genre called neo-prog. While many American bands were playing catch up with their European cousins some just sorta copied their style without bothering to try to add something unique to the mix and coming from the unlikely setting of Roseburg, Oregon was a dead ringer for Germany's Tangerine Dream and his name was MICHAEL GARRISON.

How this guy was inspired to create progressive electronic that sounds right out of the playbook of Edgar Froese mixed with Jean Michel Jarre after being raised by a banker and studying psychology at the University of Idaho is anyone's guess but not only did GARRISON nail down the sound of one of Germany's greatest musical exports but did it in such a way that it sounds like a long lost unreleased album that never made it out of the recording studio. GARRISON had a long run of albums throughout the 80s and 90s that all started in 1979 with his debut IN THE REGIONS OF SUNRETURN which was so convincing that it even ended up on the German label Ariola Records.

Think of the most melodic Tangerine Dream album or the crossover pop electronic sounds of Jean Michel Jarre and you already know what this debut album sounds like. This is a really convincing and well delivered piece of sequencer driven Berlin School electronica that'll take you out to space into the Oort cloud and beyond with all those familiar hypnotic pulses and accompanying squiggles that are topped off with a melodic atmospheric and even emphatic declaration of musicality. Only one problem with all this and that is this has all been done before and this particular style of Berlin School didn't necessarily need a revisit from some American artist who probably had no idea that pretzels were supposed to be soft or that pumpernickel is a bread and not the currency of prostitutes.

THE REGIONS OF SUNRETURN (later with the additional AND BEYOND) was based on the expeditions of Voyager 1 and 2 that found tripped out long sequences with treble rich soloing soaring high above. Add a few sci-fi sounds that simulate a space craft whizzing through the void of the vast distances above and this album is indeed the perfect soundtrack for the stars with all those Tangerine Dream cadences checked off to the T along with catchy hooks and well mixed effects. This is actually a very pleasant album to listen to and i've sat down and zoned out to it many times but in the end it is the epitome of a clone artist that fails to add a single iota of originality to the piece and pretends that this style of music is somehow new.

In the end MICHAEL GARRISON will continue to be one of those mere footnotes in a much deeper historical analysis of progressive electronic artists who rode the wake of the bigwigs of Europe but it must be noted that at least he crafted a compellingly beautiful example of copycat syndrome for sure. Had this come out ten years prior, it would've gone done as a classic but given that this dream is colored too much in the tangerine shades of the color spectrum, all i can say is good job but not good enough. While i would recommend this for those who just can't get enough melodic progressive electronic in the Berlin School camp, it seems futile to do so considering artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze alone have released dozens of excellent albums that are much more compelling. Nice try, man but Oregon School prog electronic just doesn't cut it despite this being a more than pleasant listening experience.

Report this review (#2341025)
Posted Monday, March 9, 2020 | Review Permalink

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