A Review of “Spirit Dwelling” by Geoffrey Armes

If you’re used to ‘New Age’ music referring to a lot of directionless noodling by people who haven’t mastered their instruments, maybe punctuated by samples of ocean waves and wind, you will be pleasantly surprised listening to Geoffrey Armes’ latest recording, “Spirit Dwelling”. Geoffrey has already established himself as a singer/songwriter worthy of notice with his CDs “Green Love” and “Elemental Red”. “Spirit Dwelling” demonstrates that he’s also a gifted enough instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer to pull off an ambitious 70-minute, mostly instrumental, recording.

This will be a very long article if I comment on every song, so I will turn most of my attention to the first song. “Spirit Dwelling” begins with “Sun and Cloud.” It starts with a low synth note – so deep and resonant you feel it as well as hear it. You have been alerted; you’re entering a different space. Guitars enter slowly, arpeggiating an easy welcome. A flute plays in the background. Nothing is rushed. The music takes all the time it needs to slowly unravel and you feel as if you have all the time in the world to listen.

Four minutes in and we haven’t even changed chords yet. In fact, there are no chords here, nothing to anticipate, nothing to rush towards. Here, melodies intertwine, they come and go like the leaves drifting past my window as I write this on a November morning.

At almost six minutes into “Sun and Cloud,” percussion and electric bass create a pulse and harmonic foundation. Indian and Middle Eastern influences dominate the guitar melodies. Reggae/Dub influences are apparent in the groove. Eventually the guitar and the groove give way to synth strings that suspend the mood and finally fade to end this eleven minute song.

This ain’t rock’n’roll. This ain’t the blues. This IS thoughtfully improvised world-folk-newage music that creates an atmosphere for introspection, meditation, or yoga – as the composer intended. In fact, Geoffrey subtitled this CD, “Music for Yoga.” I think he succeeded. With this music playing I can let my mind wander as I listen, yet the focus of the musical performance keeps me focused and alert to each thought that enters and then leaves my mind. This music creates a perfect aural landscape for yoga practice.

This is an important recording. It is unified. It maintains a definite sense of purpose from the first song to the last, from the first note through to the last. It is spacious and calming, but not sleep-inducing. Songs with extended improvisations sit beside instrumentals reminiscent of Indian Ragas where modal melodies dance over pedal tones. Some songs groove, some are built on a more open landscape, and some have obvious Celtic/Folk influences. This contrast makes for a positive listening experience. All of the music is engaging – not an adjective I would normally associate with ‘New Age’ music.

The recording’s sound quality is excellent. Recorded at Geoffrey’s Village Recording, and mastered by Tom DeSisto, this CD sounds great. Acoustic guitars sound warm and full, the percussion rings crisp and clear.

This is adventurous music that you should hear. You can purchase a copy at http://www.geoffreyarmes.com/. Then you can light a few candles, put the CD on, and bend your body into shapes like a pretzel.

(originally published in January 2006 Aural Fix)

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