One of the things Spotted Peccary mainstay ambient electronic artist Deborah Martin is known for is her superb collaborations. Her last, with Dean De Benedictis (under the name Desensitized), 'Hemispherica Portalis' was a "wonderama of a dreamscape" as I put it. Here she combines her talents with oboist, English horn player, pianist and composer Jill Haley, who has a series of National Park soundscapes. Together they interact with the realms of nature in its pristine environs, inviting the listener into the depths of quiet beauty and graceful repose. Exploring various locations in the Pacific Northwest, these pioneering artists experienced first-hand the very essence of the natural world; steeped in these remote majestic settings culminated in their crafting colorful musical expressions that weave lush ambient textures and melodies layered together with recordings of Oboe, English horn and various percussion, tenderly revealing passions and emotions emanating forth from those moments.
With Haley's woodwinds as the main melodic instrument(s) there is a classical, or new classical element here that separates this work from more abstract, amorphous ambient soundscapes. Yet the melodic content is not necessarily strictly defined, but more interwoven with Martin's ambient electronics. To me, the oboe is one of the more melancholy orchestral instruments (I tried to play it for a time but with little success) lending a wistful aura to the sort of gentle pastoral themes explored on 'The Silence of Grace.' If you want to call this "New Age" music, well sobeit, but it is not of the clichéd and cloying variety. There is a richness throughout the eight compositions on the album that are like pairing an exquisite mousse with a fine dessert wine for a sophisticated palate. I was a little surprised, and delighted as well by "From Fire Into Water" with its primitive didgeridoo-like sounds, and could really have used more of that. In fact, if some of the music had gone the way of the Third Ear Band I would have been really excited. Still, there are so many fine moments on 'The Silence of Grace' that I can't complain. (Not much silence but a lot of grace.) If you're looking for an album that is elegant and quietly contemplative, this is certainly it.