Friday, September 20, 2019

Album Review: Skies and Stars by Jeff Pearce

Indiana-based musician Jeff Pearce has been releasing music since the early 90s, debuting with an album in 1993 called Tenderness and Fatality. He followed up that recording in 1996 with The Hidden Rift, a landmark album that featured what would become Pearce’s unmistakable signature sound of composing ethereal ambient music entirely on electric guitar by applying innovative methods of digital processing, delay effects and layering techniques. Subsequently releasing other significant albums in this pioneering style, including two now-classics, To the Shores of Heaven (Hypnos, 2000) and Bleed (Hypnos, 2002), Pearce earned glowing praise in prominent publications such as Billboard magazine and Allmusic, with the latter naming him “one of the top two electronic guitarists of all time”.

Jeff Pearce would later record a couple of albums on solo Chapman Stick followed by an atmospheric piano album in 2012, until eventually making a stunning comeback on ambient guitar with the release of his 2014 award-winning album With Evening Above. While Pearce’s music has remained in that perfect zone ever since, his latest album, Skies and Stars, which has arrived just in time for the fall season, further expands on the deep sonic immersions of previous compositions like “Downdrift” and “A Long Winter’s Sleep”, as well as those found on his 2001 album The Light Beyond.

Spanning approximately 56-minutes long, Skies and Stars is comprised of three spellbindingly beautiful compositions. The first two tracks are longform excursions while the third cut is a shorter piece. Conceptualized around a theme of stargazing and sky-watching, Skies and Stars begins at twilight dusk with the piece “Evening Clouds”, as metallic, mist-filled swirls seemingly mimic the slow formations of cirrostratus clouds drifting across the sky. The fading incandescence of sunlight has almost disappeared from the horizon, as the composition gradually modifies into various intangible and imaginative shapes along its 28-minute course. Ensuing next at nearly 24-minutes long, “The Stars Above My Childhood Home” is perhaps my personal favorite piece on the album. Stirring a deep sense of mystery, the night sets in with metamorphosing modulations of dreamily Delphic tonalities unveiling a sky full of constellations. Finally, at a standard 4-minutes long, “The Last Bright Lights” guides us through the nocturnal cycle's darkest point into the remainder of the night, as tenebrous tonal formations of fathomless expanses eventually dissolve with the astronomical dawn.

Another gorgeously brilliant album from Jeff Pearce, Skies and Stars seemingly transpires from the perspective of a listener-observer remaining on planet earth while peering out into the cosmos. In that sense, perhaps ‘deep sky’ music is an even more fitting description than ‘deep space’. If you’ve ever seen breathtaking photos of the Bolivian salt flats (or even experienced this wonder for yourself) in which a person is surrounded by the cosmos reflecting their light onto the surface below, listening to this album brought many of those images to mind, as well as that of navigating a ship in the open sea at night with only the stars as a compass.

As a longtime fan of his work for many years now, I highly recommend Skies and Stars to those who love Jeff Pearce’s ambient guitar albums along with any enthusiast of the ambient-space genre! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available from Bandcamp, Amazon and other music retailers.