There’s a line in the 2004 hit “Reach Up For The Sunrise” from iconic New Wavers Duran Duran that says, ‘only change will bring you of the darkness’. While I was pondering those words, mulling over what that means to my life, as expected, it oozed out into my psyche while listening to the new album Afternoon Ambience from instrumentalist Dan Blanchard. Anyone looking for that light, that boost to their system, Blanchard delivers. Afternoon Ambience grabs the listener immediately and takes them on a unique listening journey.
Heavy with whispers of flying flutes, ecstatic percussion and a bevy of strings, Afternoon Ambience leaves the imagination to the listener. The foundation that Blanchard provides is substantially flexible. The ebb and flow ranges from classical sounding, to traditional Indian and Asian influences. I did hear faint ashes of modern electronica, but they didn’t last too long. The majority of these tracks are draped in the organic and nature flow. Listeners aren’t going to be plugging in and gearing up for an EDM rave. Afternoon Ambience suggests itself to be an internal, isolated experience. I don’t think that it has to be, and the energy abound can be a shared experience.
For starters, the first song “Unwind” (Raga Bhimpalasi Alaap), sets the scene. Blanchard carefully crafts a spellbinding, ambient melody. The overwhelming cathartic, harmonies and beaming light embraces the listener. As a listener, the jumping off point really started for me at about track four – not because tracks and three didn’t hold my attention, but they were steady and even-keeled. Track four, “Building” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Madhya Teentaal) I felt the textured start to increase in tempo, the landscape rather than being horizontal, the imagery and sonic waves directed upwards. You have to remember, when you’re listening to an album such as Afternoon Ambience, your imagination is feel free to roam and I allowed every color, smell and scene fill my mind. I encourage you to do the same. Blanchard, an artist classically trained on the santoor by Indian master Pandit Satish Vyas, notes in his press materials that music can heal. He seeks to compose work that helps listeners. I can’t imagine a more noble effort than these songs, especially “Building”. These songs all have that special ‘it’ factor and communicate love from one human to another.
Dan Blanchard, Category: Artist, Albums: Afternoon Ambience, Unwind (Raga Bhimpalasi Alaap), The Heart of Nepal, The Spirit of Christmas, Awakening (Raga Bhairav), Singles: Swirling (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Vilambit Jhaptaal), Top Tracks: Unwind (Raga Bhimpalasi Alaap), Invocation (Feat.
In “Ascent” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Drut Teentaal), the tempo and temperature rises. Blanchard’s canvass is more caffeinated, but still very natural. It’s like inhaling the air atop a mountain – so clear and invigorating. Track six, “Let Go” (based on Raga Bhimpalasi) takes a few more steps down the mountain, stuttering the pace gently. It’s like those final moments of a race, and you find that second wind to push through the finish line. It’s not that dramatic, but the warm waves carry the listener afloat further down the stream. It’s all around you, encompassing. Blanchard is betting you being present in his work in the exquisite Afternoon Ambience, he’s welcoming you into the experience with open arms.