DAVID DARLING — Eight String Religion (review)

DAVID DARLING — Eight String Religion album cover Album · 1993 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Matti P
American cellist and composer DAVID DARLING (1941-2021) came into my radar as a collaborator of Norwegian pianist and composer Ketil Björnstad on his ECM albums The Sea (1995) and The Sea II (1998), alongside guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jon Christensen. The spatially impressionistic and melancholic instrumental music on those albums made a deep impression on me in the late 90's, and if I remember right, soon afterwards I also found this solo album of Darling from the library. Otherwise his output is not familiar to me.

This aptly titled album indeed has almost a "sacred" feel of introspection. Released on the New Age label Hearts Of Space, it is a wholeheartedly NewAgey collaboration between Darling on cello, piano and other miscallenous instruments plus wordless voice, and the engineer/producer Mickey Houlihan who added some field recordings of mainly water and birds. This music is thoroughly peaceful, tender and soothing, but unlike much of the so called New Age Music, definitely not clichéd or calculated in a hollow way. Of course it always depends on the individual listener how any music reaches one's "inner spirit" or "soul". In my case, listening to this album is a truly beautiful and cleansing experience. The deep-voiced cello has the key role in the magical equation.

Not necessarily each of the eight (!) pieces are anything more than harmonic and beautiful sonic tapestry for relaxation, and that's ok. Because there are deeply impressive highlights too. 'Soft Light' functions perfectly as the opener with its slow-paced dueting between piano and cello's pizzicato. 'Clouds' takes one deeper into inner visions and emotions, with a slight Oriental feel in the melodies and the delicate use of voice.

My favourite is 'Sweet River' that starts with birdsong and gentle sounds of water. The piano plays a melancholic melody, the voice is heard occasionally, and before you realize your mind is floating along the river in a timeless, placeless way. The production is perfect, each little detail serves the whole. The light percussion is a bit reminiscent of the vases in the NITS album Ting (1992). On 'Sojourn' the soft repeated pattern makes me think of BRIAN ENO at his most delicate -- yes, Ambient is another fitting category for this album -- while the cello wails beautifully at its top register, making allusions to the aforementioned The Sea albums.

On the final piece 'Remember' the voice is at its most central, in both the melodic and the sonic sense. No proper words, just d's and wovels. To sum things up, I warmly recommend this album if you appreciate calm introspection in music, the sound of cello, the ECM-like spatial production, and the Ambient genre, and are not put off by the term New Age or the sound effects of nature.
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