Title: Halla
Artist: Ari Porki & Christopher Alvarado
Release Date: 2014 June 29
Genre: Ambient
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Label: 45 Echoes Sounds

Introduction

For their second release, Porki and Alvarado explore Halla, and this time they are bringing a boat-load of guests along with them: Jack Hertz, Cousin Silas, Stephen Briggs,  Eyes Cast Down, and Void of Realms.  It’s a mystical, expansive exploration that takes the listener through many dimensions.  Join me on the journey.

One Halla Dilemma

I have to confess to having something of a problem from the start with this release, and it’s a personal issue not anything to do with the recording itself (as I will prove later).  I don’t know which Halla is referred to in this title.  There are two likely candidates: the planet Halla from Stargate SG-1, and the Halla of the The Pendragon Adventure by DJ MacHale.

So, here’s the problem…  I was actually angered by the movie Stargate.  So much so, that I could not watch the TV series.  I would not allow myself to have anything more to do with a movie that I despised so much that I really wanted to demand my money back.  (I won’t elaborate much more on this point, if you know me outside of these reviews, I’ll explain more.)

And, I have not read The Pendragon Adventure books.  I just read through a summary of the series, and it seems like a potentially cool set of books.  But not being familiar with them, I can’t draw any parallels between the music on this release, and the books themselves.

If those possibilities weren’t enough, there is a third (although the cover illustration for this release doesn’t seem to fit): a fictional kingdom in the film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne,

So, through my lack of knowledge I don’t know for certain if the title is a reference to a book, a movie or a TV show.  But this has never really stopped me before, as I often prefer to listen to a work without a specific point of reference so I can pick out that attributes that are the most interesting to me.

Update: After all of my musings about the word Halla in this article, Christopher has informed me that it is the Finnish word for ‘frost’. 🙂

Porki and Alvarado Explore Halla

So, being somewhat unencumbered by the thought process, here are my impressions of this release.

First, there were several tracks that I wasn’t expecting on this release.  The extremely wall shaking bass of ‘With Void of Realms’ was complete shock.  It seems too often in ambient releases that artists don’t pay attention to the whole range of sounds that can be explored, But this piece does make use of the whole range, and its dark tone is major change from other pieces on this release.

The title track ‘Halla’ is another nice change, with a percussion line reminiscent of Vangelis, and excellent little bits of counterpoint interspersed throughout the piece.  I had primarily been expecting this release to be mostly drones and keyboard swashes throughout, so to have a track that has a solid rhythmic foundation is both unexpected and welcomed.

Bringing in an element of Indian percussion on ‘Raja’ was another nice touch.  And, as much as I enjoyed ‘Halla’ for it’s rhythmic attributes, I enjoyed ‘Raja’ even more for its layer upon layer of drums and percussion underpinned by electronics. And what is that?  Is it a groove? OMG – since when did we allow a groove into ambient music?  Well, I think it should be allowed a lot more often.  Some of my favorite parts of Klaus Schulze’s works are when his sequencers take over and he builds rhythm and groove on top of the sequences.  It’s not that we’ve never had grooves in ambient music, it just seems that many artists get so caught up in abstract expressions that they’ve forgotten how to cut loose a bit.

As for the collaborations on this release: I can’t find a fault with any of them.  The guitar work of  Eyes Cast Down is haunting and transparent.  Stephen Briggs guitar work is wonderfully complimentary to the expressive expanses of ‘Lucid Stars’.  Jack Hertz’s internal soundscape provides an excellent focal point for ‘Barometric Pressures’.  And, what can I say about Cousin Silas?  Well, I ‘Musta’ say something, so I’ll just leave at his level of ingenuity in working with these collaborators is a revelation.

Now, having said all of this, I have to express a couple of nitpicks.  First, one of the titles is odd (even though I love the track): ‘With Void of Realms’.  Everything else seems to be With , so why the odd break for this track?  Could be a joke, or it could be a mistake.  I’m honestly not sure which.

And, I kind of wish the sequencing was a little different on this release.  Putting ‘Halla’ and ‘Raja’ back to back seems to be overloading the percussive aspect of this release. I wish these had been broken up to mix the rhythmic aspects into the rest of the release a bit more.  (But, I’m also second guessing myself since I am not certain of the reference to ‘Halla’. Maybe it is more appropriate for these tracks to appear together at the end of the release.  Sometimes being unencumbered by the thought process isn’t an advantage.)

Conclusion

There shouldn’t be any doubt that despite my minor misgivings about the track title and the sequencing of the two rhythmic pieces that I really love this release.  While I almost always like ambient releases, this one is even strong that most I have reviewed this year.  And my love of this release is due to the fact that it changes things a bit from what many ambient artists are doing these days.  It doesn’t stay strictly dark or strictly abstract.  Ari and Christopher have found a dimension that allows them to explore a more diverse range of ambiance, and for that I am quite thankful.

Ari Porki & Christopher Alvarado: Halla

Free / $5 USD (or more)
8.5

Rating

8.5/10

Pros

  • 45 Echoes Sounds release is free
  • BandCamp release is $5 USD (or more)
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Posted by George De Bruin