Unruh, Steve - Invisible Symphony

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Invisible Symphony is Steve Unruh's fourth release (his fifth, Out Of The Ashes, is just out as of this writing), and his first all instrumental release. As with his previous albums, Unruh plays all the instruments ? guitars, violin, mandolin, bass, flute, drums, keyboards, and various hand percussion instruments. And yet, this doesn't suffer from the "go it alone" syndrome. It is warm and inviting, without being over indulgent. Unruh reveals himself to be a practical man, each piece saying what it needs to say and then giving way to the next piece. It is, for the most part, mellow and laid-back, maintaining a great deal of warmth throughout. It's an album that is instantly comfortable ? to use a clich?: like a favourite sweater, soft and cozy. This isn't fluffy music, or "pretty" in a precious or trite kind of way, though the music is quite beautiful. It isn't heavy or depressing, even when it feels sad.

The use of violin here just further makes me believe there is a strong connection between Irish music and both bluegrass and what I will call "American Heartland" music, which isn't country, but evokes the vast grasslands and farmlands of the mid-West? Unruh resides in Kansas.

The sparse and elegant "Flute and Percussion Improv," is, as its title suggests, flute and percussion (rattling and pounding drums with finger cymbal accents) ? the result sounding at times melancholy and like something both middle-eastern and Native American as it draws out its lilting and sinewy lines. And yet not what you would say is "typical" of either, though it tends more towards the latter. One might also describe "Spinning" in this fashion, though the colours here are mandolin and drums and finger cymbals with a whisper of violin. At the other spectrum is the lively "InstruMental Breakdown" that at times could be described as Unruh's variation on Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown" (violins, mandolins and all; and all Unruh), though before long the piece moves from that to something that is more sweeping and vast, like the American Heartland, venturing into darker places along the way (and then back).

In between, Unruh dabbles with light, bluesy, loungey, guitar centered jazz with "Great Scott!" "The Water's Edge," "Waiting" and "Twelve O'Clock & All's Well" are both mellow, relaxing tracks, the latter more sparse and certainly a touch reflective ? one has taken stock and decided they're in an okay place, somewhere close to content. "Waiting" is perhaps the most mid-West sounding of them all, evoking clear and starry skies above a vast field on a chilly night. Imagine looking up at those stars ? but who or what is one waiting for? It's an open ended question? "Lotus' Land II" comes a close second on the "mid-Western" sound, though a more lively, falling somewhere between "Waiting" and "InstruMental Breakdown," including that sweeping vastness feel.

"Tragic Scene From Some Movie" is certainly an apt description of this piece ? throbbing drums play over a keyboard wash (a bit reminiscent of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" though the rhythm is different), before violin takes on the lead, sound ever so sweet, and sad. And you know that scene is played out in slow motion and up close, documenting each and every tear, every anguished face? the drums suggest a funeral procession, though they aren't necessarily funereal in rhythm.

"Squirel" [sic] has a classic, mellow arrangement, played by piano (rhythm) and bass (lead), that is missing only someone like ? maybe Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra on vocals ? certainly a crooner from the 50s-60s. That isn't to say it needs vocals, just that one expects a vocalist to start ? crooning.

Excellent playing, engaging melodies and arrangements, warm production? what more could you ask for? except for more? Beautiful.

Spinning / InstruMental Breakdown / Waiting / Flute & Percussion Improv / Great Scott! / Twelve o'Clock & All's Well / Tragic Scene From Some Movie / Lotus' Land II / Squirel / The Water's Edge

Steve Unruh ? steel-string, nylon-string, and electric guitar, violin, mandolin, electric bass, flute, drumkit, keyboard, and hand percussion (doumbek, framedrum, congas, tambourine, wind chimes, finger cymbals).

Sign Of Saturn - Sign Of Saturn (1996)
Believe? (1997)
The Beginning Of A New Day (1998)
Egeria Jazz Trio - Egeria Jazz Trio (2000)
The Dayfly - Album (2000)
DT & BW Records Sampler (2001)
Two Little Awakenings (2001)
Invisible Symphony (2002)
Out Of The Ashes (2004)
Instrumental Retrospective (2004)
Song To The Sky (2005)
The Great Divide (2007)
Songs From The Flowered Chair (2008)
Challenging Gravity (2010)

Genre: Progressive Folk

Origin US

Added: February 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.steveunruh.com
Hits: 983
Language: english


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