Though seemingly a sequel to the original Night Air album, Night Air II is actually a compilation of a number of Blaine L. Reininger's works, instrumental as well as vocal, ranging from the late '80s through 2000, drawing on four separate releases. Mostly consisting of purely solo work through and through, though with the occasional guest performer, it's a fine showcase for his abilities at lush, often classically 'cinematic' work on the level of In the Nursery's series of real and imaginary film scores. Like that band, Reininger has won some specific movie commissions -- two of the source albums are soundtracks to films, 1995's Radio Moscow and 1997's Manic Man. Both provide some particularly striking choices on Night Air II -- the CD starts with Radio Moscow's "Night Ride," living up to the name by blending Reininger's accomplished violin work with what sounds like plucked harps and a high organ piece, along with other elements in the arrangement. It successfully sounds like it should accompany shadowy spies lurking in dark corners and snow at midnight, as do other pieces like "Manic Man" itself and the piano-only "Night Street," while "Winter in Wien" specifically invokes a Cold War atmosphere and makes a witty reference to 'all that Third Man stuff.' The selections from the most recent album, The More I Learn the Less I Know, show that in a new millennium Reininger's voice is perhaps more accomplished and apt for his music than before -- where on Byzantium he was offering up stiff covers of Leonard Cohen, on songs like "Invisible" he finds his own style on such a speak/singing approach, low key and reflective. At points he specifically experiments with various sounds and styles -- "Flame On" balances out Frankie Laine and Ennio Morricone while "Al Haqq" explores Arabian orchestral arrangements and "Nocho Lluviosa" has him singing in Spanish.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett