Monday 11 February 2019

Ed Wynne - Shimmer into Nature (2019)

Country: UK
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Jan 2019
Sites: Official Website | Wikipedia

For those who don't recognise the name, Ed Wynne is the main man in legendary British psychedelic rockers Ozric Tentacles. He's the only founding member left nowadays, holding strong on guitar, keyboards and programming after thirty-five years. He also writes most of their material. Given that the band today features his wife and son, plus an unrelated Hungarian drummer, it seems a little odd that he'd release a solo album at this point, but hey. Why not?

As you might expect, there's a lot of the Ozric sound here. All five tracks are instrumentals and they run long, only one track clocking in under eight minutes and one just edging over ten. Each constitutes a fluid guitar workout for Wynne, with layers of synths, programmed drums and other sounds arrayed on top. He was responsible for all of it, plus the composition and the mixing and quite likely everything else except the cover art. At heart, this album really is him jamming with himself.

The two tracks that stand out on first listen are Travel Dust and Wherble, which go for rather different vibes, the former carrying a reggae feel to it and the latter awash with world sounds: flutes and xylophones and whatnot. It seems that Wynne's chief inspiration for these tracks were places that he'd visited over a period of a few years, but the places listed don't include Jamaica or Australia, so who knows what he actually visited in the Colorado mountains or the Firth of Forth.

Frankly, it doesn't matter. Wynne's work is always about taking us to wild and wonderful places, whether they're down the road and round the corner, somewhere on the other side of Pluto or inside a rather deep acid trip, but the places we go while listening don't have to be the places that inspired him to write in the first place. And that's good, because I have little interest in actually climbing a glass staircase for eight minutes. I'd much rather listen to Ed Wynne do that on the opening track called, naturally, Glass Staircase, which fortunately does not induce vertigo in the slightest.

If anything, Travel Dust is more likely to do that, given that it feels like an immersion into jungle, with birds singing and rain falling and the works. Where are we in the jungle? I feel sky, so I'm guessing high up. Don't look down! I'm no synasthete but Wynne's compositions are so lush that I tend to hear colours when I listen to them. This one's primarily green with some clear blue floating around above it. The reggae beat that kicks in midway doesn't hurt that imagery at all.

Shim plays with colours too and textures. At points it feels like Wynne's playing a rainbow or a waterfall rather than a synthesiser and images like that help to underline that this is emphatically happy music. As John Hurford's cover art ably depicts, there's no darkness here at all. Everything depicted is lush and vibrant and wildly illuminated. This is positive mood music and that's no accident. Wynne has explained that the idea of the album is "to transport the listener to a place where the everyday ups and downs of the world dissipate, leaving the mind free to wander... landing eventually, hopefully freshly charged, with a smile and a calmer spirit."

If you like the effect of new age albums that transport nature into your home but hate the soporific music that comes along with them, this might just be for you. It does the same job but through a handful of glorious psychedelic trips into the landscapes of your dreams.

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