Portland, Oregon’s Scott Unrein is a reasonably active musician, yet not much of his output is available on record. This month sees the birth of his own label, inaugurated by a three-track EP. In the press release, Unrein correctly talks about “quiet, meditative music floating on the cusp of ambient and 21st century chamber music”. It goes without saying that the perils related to that sphere of expression are many; indeed, the borders dividing an earnest effort from the peddling of low-budget “plastic Zen” wallpaper are often unguarded. Nonetheless, the hours spent with A Rising Space reveal accessible compositional principles explicated by the artist’s obvious dedication and multi-instrumental skills.
Although a Kyle Gann quote compares Unrein’s sonic perspective to that of Harold Budd, there’s no surplus of effective correspondences. “From Larch Mountain” juxtaposes echoing resonances with bucolic field recordings – most notably a waterfall, snippets of fatherhood, a crying baby – to establish a contemplative mood embellished by a minimal counterpoint. This charming beginning is followed by “Une Confédération De Danses”, a pulsating study whose natural flow is informed by metallic percussiveness and moderate patterns; think a (vague) hybrid of Roedelius and Kraftwerk circa “Kling Klang” with an updated sonority. The entrancing character of the piece’s first half is subsequently balanced with a somewhat alien “soloist” line by (we guess) a synthesizer (*). The final “The Age Of Blossoms” is predominantly nourished by the ebbing and flowing of a string-based chord sequence, supplemented by peaceful piano arpeggios and fugitive apparitions of (we guess, part 2) processed vocals. It’s a conscious hint to a more soundtrack-ish type of proposal, still distant from saccharine tackiness.
Throughout this short album Unrein discloses feelings and intentions with perceptible sincerity; subterfuges are totally absent. Amidst the countless postures of man’s unnatural attitude, sometimes it’s nice to recall the basics of simple listening – and, why not, living.
(*) Editor’s note: I subsequently learnt that it’s actually an amplified mandolin with effects.