Russell Suereth – Spiritual Haven

 Russell Suereth – Spiritual Haven

Russell Suereth – Spiritual Haven – Album Review

I’ve always got time for music like this and so rarely get the chance to sit, relax & enjoy without thinking about the business-side of life at the same time. It takes a real cohesive, audible-execution to make a gentle, ambient sound to be captivating enough to keep your attention in-full and not become just more of what’s happening in the background of your own thoughts…and I think you’ll find that this new album Spiritual Haven manages to pull this off perfectly with precision and ease.

Cohesive really is the right word for Russell’s music – this warm, inviting sound he’s creating is both minimal but incredibly tight…each moment comes through as a natural extension of the last and Spiritual Haven truly flows like water as it plays. The opening transformation from the melancholy tones of “A Magic Flight” into a sparkling, bright atmosphere full of strings and natural tones all spread out subtly as the album starts into its tender sound. Songs like “Distant Voices” really make the point of how nature and music interact and connect…this blend of earthy-sounds and melodic-tones worked fantastically for me and really brought me in closely to listen; it’s all so incredibly minimal but all so incredibly effective through the way Russell has it all mixed in here.

The sheer list of instruments you’ll find on Spiritual Haven would be enough to peak any musician’s interest: piano, oboe, bassoon, viola, cello, French horn, guitars. That alone is interesting – but combined with the twist of augmenting the sounds with ancient instruments found globally like the duduk, guzheng, grand marimba, koto, oud, krin…I mean, this list…LOOK at this list! That’s an incredibly unique pursuit and one that I’d have to say reflects the passion of a man that understands music transcends all borders, unites us in harmony and can be a valuable tool to connect us through common bonds between that music & the melodies in the world around us. As a result, songs like “Glimmer Of Light,” and “Night Dances” become somehow more intoxicating, just knowing that many of these sounds are coming to my ears from instruments I’ve never ever SEEN is amazing to me and I definitely commend Russell for making this album with such ambition.

In a way…you’d almost think enthusiasm, passion and the energy he’d put into a venture like this would result in up-tempo, extravagant & exotic pop-songs…but Suereth has taken the road less travelled to create textures far more interesting to my ears personally. “Swirling Spice” is just pure audio-awesomeness; wind sounds drift around…keyboards are used to supply an almost haunting melody that bends like a theramin against the gentle percussion. Perhaps a little darker in the overall vibe, but I personally found this to be one of the most captivating tunes on Spiritual Haven and one of the richest, most lush atmospheres he’s put onto the record thus far. The slight departure in sound also made it a little more difficult to jump back into the sweeter atmosphere of “Nightingale Rushes” but it doesn’t take long before the melodic and gentle nature of Russell’s natural tendencies begin to take over and welcome you back in.

The real winners for me leaned much more towards the subtle tribal-sounds of songs like “Swirling Spice” and “Notions Astir.” It’s through songs like this that Russell flexes the compromise in between mystery & spirituality through the music and really puts in a question-mark into the sound…but in a good way…if that makes any sense. I suppose what I’m saying is that the layers of texture on this album allow Suereth to explore all kinds of emotion through the songs and have those thoughts & feelings come through clearly to us all as listeners…or to say it even more concisely; we feel what he’s feeling.

“Sudden Awareness” was an interesting mix to me…in so many spots throughout this song, it shrinks away from a full sound into nearly nothing left…and my thoughts almost turned towards a ‘moment of clarity’ kind of feeling…or at least how I was thinking about it. Made me wonder if perhaps “Sudden Awareness” and a ‘moment of clarity’ could be one and the same…you see? I like how this music makes me think and pay attention…and all with ease, warmth and comfort through these extraordinary instruments he’s found.

Songs like “Red Moon Calling” and “Red Moon Rising” have a modern-day ambient feel to them and a similar thread that bonds these two tightly together in the second-half of the album. The sound mix, and ideas are certainly close enough to what The Album Leaf, Tortoise or Boards Of Canada are doing for others to take notice. Great mixture of melody and mystery once again…Russell’s use of space and sound are smooth demonstrations of his grip on mood & atmosphere every time. Another fantastic progression of the sound to further creative combinations, the following song “Realization” brings in one of the most melodic hooks within the music. Beautifully pronounced…this is gorgeous; I of course have no clue as to which of those worldly instruments he’s using to make these particularly stunning sounds…but these might be the ones I like the most. Absolutely captivating – “Realization” is pretty much everything I could ever ask for to come through my speakers…a perfect moment in time and Russell has captured it perfectly to share with us all.

And to be completely truthful…I might have ended this album with “Realization,” or switched up the order between that and the final song called “The Village Breathes.” Although the ending sweetens once again through the music and sends us off on a brighter note somewhat…for me, that melody of “Realization” is so powerful and strong that it almost leaves a guy with nowhere else to go…and I think as a final ending, at least for me…it might have worked a little better overall and perhaps even somehow strengthened the feelings I had towards “The Village Breathes” and its gentle melody had it come beforehand. It’s hardly a thing to complain about…Russell has done an incredible job on Spiritual Haven through an amazing array of emotions and atmosphere too captivating to simply let fade into the background – this is ambient music that makes you want to listen, and listen for a long time.

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