Ambient music by its very nature is not limited to song forms, melodic hooks, or harmonic development. Instead, it focuses on musical colors, textures, sonic varieties, and instrumental layering. If the goal of ambient is to create new and unique atmospherics then Don Campbell's work is among the best. ESSENCE features three lengthy compositions by Campbell entitled "Crystallite," "Rune Dance," and "Seraphims," respectively.
All three compositions use electronics. However, the sounds Campbell employs are always organic. "Crystallite" drips single piano notes onto a canvas of silence. Each note echoes several times before finally dissipating. This is supported by low-pitched keyboard swells, which act as mood enhancers. "Rune Dance" has a distinct underwater feel to it. Again, Campbell is careful not to clutter his musical environment with lots of sound. Instead, we hear spare bell tones floating gently in an ocean of reverb. ESSENCE closes with "Seraphims," the most active of the three tracks. Here, Campbell continues with his bell motif. However, the bells used on this selection are much more radiant and bright. Further, Campbell's bells are accompanied by stark keyboard intervals, played in perfect fifths. Overall, this is a compelling yet meditative release.