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Firehand — Sky Gardens
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-07-28

Sky Gardens Cover art

“A different kind of ambient music” — at least that’s how composer Robert Logan describes his Firehand project, one of several project names that he releases music under. Having only heard one previous Firehand release, The Three Worlds from 2021, my recollection is that it was far more electronic oriented than the release at hand, Sky Gardens, which seems to be more orchestral, with classical and folk embellishments, and hints of East Asian traditional sounds scattered therewithin. Of course Logan has a wealth of other music endeavors to draw upon, including production, film soundtrack work, and more, so what he does is limited only by his creativity and ability to execute his ideas. Sky Gardens opens with a piece titled “Welcoming Harmonics” which is at once dreamy and explorative, one which the title describes so well; it also introduces some of the additional sounds that accompany Logan’s production and arrangements throughout the album’s sixteen tracks, followed by the introspective “First Rays.” For his part Logan plays piano, analog and digital synthesizers, sequencers, bells, flutes, software instruments, percussion, and environmental recordings. Guests include Griga Cuciuc (violin), Joanne Clara (cello), Daniel Rogerson (guitar parts), and vocalists Lianne Chan, Jen Sturrock, and Andrea Black, who provide textures throughout many of the tracks. The overall sound encompasses warm, gentle phrasings with a rich blanket of beauty, sometimes light, other times more dense and hazy, with most of the pieces being in the two-to-five minute range — long enough to make a succinct melodic statement, but not so long where a litener can get lost within it. The strings evince a shimmering power that the melodies can ride forward on, at which times the synths concentrate on dramatic sweeps. The playfully sequenced “City of Dreams” offers some percussion-driven melodies that the strings weave in and out of; “Kunming” is an introspective piece reminiscent of Chinese classical music; “Sentient” moves forward with brisk subtle pulses, while “The Art Life” offers a more electronic perspective with its percussive sequences, fluid motion and heavenly voices. Sky Gardens takes the listener through different worlds as it proceeds along its magical trajectory, much like the album cover art.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Robert Logan / Firehand

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