What to make of the latest album (Songs of Potential Embrace) by David Franklin? His written background materials calls the music new age avant-garde, and that is probably as apt a description as any. This music is out there in the ozone somewhere waiting for a home in your ears. To give you some idea right off the bat, the first tune is titled “The Failed Experiment of Consciousness.” Wow.
The music has recognizable notes and chords from piano and guitar (mostly acoustic), but it also contains sounds like a telephone dialing and ringing (“Calling”), a baby crying (“RH Factor”), a vacuum (“Piece for Vacuum and 3 Voices”), and a man reciting poetry for 57-seconds over Tibetan singing bowls. And you thought Pink Floyd was strange when they included a telephone call, a dog howling or unintelligble voices chattering. But wait, Franklin has more up his sleeve. Once again according to his publicity feature article, he includes an out-of-tune piano from the 1800s, a plucked violin, wordless vocalizing, a backwards guitar, an udu African percussion instrument also recorded backwards, a bowed harp guitar, ballbearings rolling around inside a drum, bits of conversations with troubled teenagers, the sound of a guitar being bumped against a shelf, a rhytmic sound from an electric guitar with purposely “cranked distortion,” and an acoustic baritone guitar with altered strings and an alternative tuning. It makes the pieces with synthesizer sound positively old-fashioned. Did I mention the drone-vacuum that takes on a didgeridoo vibe?
I also read that Franklin has been known to stop at a construction site to hear what it sounds like to sing into an 80-foot pipe, or that he composed “So Far Below” in a cemetary. There is one tune, “Inbal’s Theme,” that he wrote for a woman dying of cancer, and it consists of seven-minutes of sparse, spaced, slow piano notes. As one note starts to die out and decay, he plays another -- very acoustic-ambient. Speaking of ambient, there are two synthesized numbers, “Ambient Fog” and the very slow “Whirling.”
In addition, there are melodic solo piano (“Mourning in America,” fairly-melodic acoustic guitar and piano (“So Far Below”) and piano-and-synth (“Allowing”), and two over-dubbed pianos (“Shade and Shadow” and “Shade and Darkness”). The cherry on top of the sundae is the closing number, titled “XaS10shl (existential),” of course, and using a synth he goes from ambient drone at the beginning to bouncy, uptempo, new age by the end. Whew!
If you are looking for a wide variety of musical sounds, for music that pushes your senses and sensibilities, and an ear-opening, head-turning recording, look no further. This one will challenge your perceptions, precepts, principles and priorities. Eat it up. Double-dipping allowed if you are by yourself in the privacy of your own home.