Various Artists

Pure Sounds of Michigan

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Michigan's tourism board teamed up with Assemble Sound (an artist collective based in a historic church in Detroit) to create an audio companion to the state's Pure Michigan campaign. Pure Sounds of Michigan contains ten ambient pieces by musicians from throughout the state, and true to the album's title, everyday sounds such as rushing streams, chirping birds, crickets, footsteps, and rumbling trains are embedded throughout the compositions. The album serves as a travelogue, summing up a trek throughout the state's parks, up and down the coasts of the Great Lakes, and through the backroads to the Upper Peninsula. Of course, most of the musicians on the album live in the Detroit area, but the album conveys the feeling of escaping city life and embracing the natural habitat. It's all highly relaxing and meditative, to be sure, but there's a handful of profoundly beautiful moments. Brilliant Detroit-based harpist Ahya Simone is featured on the poignant, slightly melancholy "The Cedar and the Falls" by the compilation's executive producer, Blair French. The piece starts out serene and reflective before developing a more hypnotic, spiraling pattern towards the end, elevating from tranquility to ecstasy. Space rock veterans Windy & Carl let nature do most of the talking on "Forest Trails," the album's most straightforward drone. John Beltran's "Childhood Memories" starts out unassuming, with the distant sounds of church bells and children playing layered beneath the sparse pianos and synth vibrations, but a rich, sorrowful guitar part drifts in halfway through, expressing a deep sense of longing and wistful nostalgia. The album concludes with its most upbeat selection, "The Rock (Bridge to a New Day)" by Waajeed, a majestic ambient house cut which stops just short of adding a thumping beat, instead framing rushing water and expansive synth chords with a ticking pulse. Pure Sounds of Michigan equally showcases the state's creative talents as well as its own natural beauty, resulting in an illuminating, wondrous listening experience.

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