Echoes of Nature III Review


Artist: James Freeman
Title: Echoes of Nature III
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Distributor: The Orchard
Rated: 3 Stars

The third installment of James Freeman’s “Echoes of Nature” is generally interchangeable with the first two albums, though it is easily the most disjointed, and thus perhaps the most adventurous. Composer, conceptualist, and performer Freeman (synthesizer, bass, and guitar), once again marries his ‘field recordings’ (equally natural and unpredictable sounds of turkeys, birds, thunder, wolves, etc.) with authoritative soloing by live musicians. In addition to “Echoes” regulars Yehudit and Mad Tolling on violin/viola and Nika Rejto on flute/winds, Sheldon Brown returns on saxophone along with newcomer Lisa Wellhausen on flute.

The album begins rather ominously with fragmented low-end flourishes, which sets the tone for the first two tracks ‘August Birds’ and ‘Wolves’. Both tracks, especially ‘August Birds’, can be surprisingly ominous-sounding. The pair had interesting moments, but more than once I felt like I needed a sonic breath to empty the mind space saturated by Freeman’s conceptions.

‘Canadian Geese’ had more spaciousness and was a very interesting listen. Clean electric guitar comping coupled with the sounds of geese! I digress, but wonder if Canadian Geese sound different then geese of other nationalities? Proficient string improvisation by either Yehudit or Mad Tolling throughout leads to the subsequent ‘Thunder Turkeys’, which is similar in tonality and the longest track on the album (17:38). The comical, unpredictable sound of turkeys is highly amusing at times, and in this instance Freeman conjoins everything with an electric bass. Again, nearly ten minutes in, I found myself yearning for a long, deep breath as opposed to gasps.

I enjoyed the last three tracks the most, notably ‘Amazon Dance’, which was framed in the ‘jazz idiom’ and heavy on the winds and reeds. ‘Tweety Birds’ utilizes Rhodes piano-type sounds panned quickly back-and-forth to great effect. All in all, “Echoes of Nature III” was my least favorite of the bunch, but also the most audacious. It may fare better with a different track order. A remarkable sonic undertaking, regardless.

The math formula used to create the music, as defined in the press sheet:

1. Translate notes into numbers: C= 1, C#=2, etc.
2. Compose a theme, such as 1 3 4 6 2 9 11 3
3. Create derivative lines using the math formulas
4. Repeat this process to yield a matrix of numbers (notes) as a foundation for composing ideas

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Echoes of Nature II Review