Artist: Michael Harren
Title / Release Page: Tentative Armor
Release Date: 2014 Oct 14
Genre: Minimalist / Spoken Word
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Media: MP3 / OGG / FLAC
Pricing: $10 USD (or more)
Label: Self-Release / BandCamp
Michael Harren: Tentative Armor is an intimate look behind the facade of a man in this age. Using instrumentation ranging from electronic keyboards to strings, Michael has written a series of pieces that are simultaneously affecting and haunting.
Michael Harren: Tentative Armor
Michael Harren has a list of accomplishments that some artist might kill for. For example the pianist for
Bernadette Peters Sandra Bernhard*, for example. But even accomplishments such as this do not keep him from seeking out his own direction as an artist and a person, to which this recording is a large testament.
Michael has the ability to reach into depths of his spirit and humanity to write some very revealing pieces, such as ‘Mango’, about a chance encounter at a supermarket which he silently yearns to turn into something more. To the passing of his mother, told in a very manner based on journal entries, framed by a pamphlet from a grief organization.
What is striking about this recording is the way in which Harren chooses to mix elements. For example, on ‘When It Will Bloom’ we start off with light percussion and a minimal piano line setting a very somber tone. However, by two minute into the track, strings have entered to take on the somber background, and the piano is more of a driving line. Then the drums take over with oboe to build the energy of the piece and drive it forward. Eventually the forward drive and momentum dissolve, and we back to the minimal drums and vibe sound from a keyboard through the fade.
It’s this layering of textures and rhythms that provide the richness of the experiences that are related in a most intimate manner by Michael. Many times the instrumental arrangements are settings for the listener, relating the environment, like the sounds and rhythms of the big city, or the heartbeat of life itself. It’s a very compelling way of setting the spoken word and even sung works on this release.
Of course, as with most releases, there are things about some of the works that deserve a bit of criticism. For example, the choice of processed voice on ‘Mango’ takes the piece into a creepy area that isn’t needed. The deep, husky voice by itself is enough to convey the other-ness of the person that is the object of the encounter. By processing the voice in this way it takes on an almost evil, other-worldly tone that is more fitting of a superhero film than a chance encounter at Whole Foods.
Another thing that might be shocking to some people is the use of expletives in some portions of this recording. However, I welcome these choices. There is something about being brutally honest, making the listener face the truth about the person in front of us that is frequently lost in this age of politically correct communication that is refreshing.
In short: Michael Harren: Tentative Armor is a refreshing, brutally honest work of life in this age. Michael reveals some of his more intimate experiences with a sense of darkness, light, and light touches of dark humor that will transfix you.
* The reference to Bernadette Peters is purely the authors mistake. Michael has toured with Sandra Bernhard, as the article now states.