Virginia Astley

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure

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Virginia Astley's solo debut (she had previously been a member of the short-lived Ravishing Beauties with Kate St. John and Nicky Holland, and played piano on her brother-in-law Pete Townshend's single "Slit Skirts") is a magical piece of instrumental pop. It's too melodic to be Brian Eno-style ambient music, too involving to be new age mush, too simple and casual to fit in comfortably with the post-minimalist school of Michael Nyman, Andrew Poppy, or Wim Mertens, and too restrained to truly be pop music. Almost entirely instrumental, save for a few wordless vocals on "A Summer Long Since Past," and featuring little instrumentation besides Astley's piano and some subtle woodwinds, the album is a lovely 35-minute meditation built around field recordings Astley made of the ambient sounds of the rural English countryside. This description makes the album sound much more twee and insubstantial than it actually is; however, Astley is no mere ambient noodler. These nine songs are melodically rich and varied; mood pieces in the truest sense of the term. Specifically designed to mirror the moods of an indolent summer day (the sides of the original LP were even marked "morning" and "afternoon"), From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is a dreamy, involving, and occasionally even fascinating listen.

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