Michael Atkinson comes from dry regions of South Australia, and when he writes awardwinning scores for film and television, his music is determined by the stark images of the region. Atkinson's album To the Shores of an Ancient Sea evokes the images of the great arid inland sea, vast and parched, mirages, and dreams of water and exploration. The album begins with a snappy piece, "The Sky Dreams the Sea, The Sea Dreams the Sand," which belies the album's later beauty and depth. "Bays of Contented Men" is more introspective; organ tones lay a bedrock of sound for the classical guitar's musings, while a violin streaks victoriously overhead. The violin parts, played by Peter Fellin, are rhapsodically spectacular, verging on concerto quality. The album features several guitarists (Atkinson, High McDonald, and Peter Constant) plus two (Atkinson and Orietta Burgos) playing the small ten-string churango, so it's hard to credit specific tracks. A steel-string guitar sets the delicate mood for "Mallacoota Moonlight"; again the violin makes a strong stand, while Michael Westlake's creates silvery cloudscapes amid Atkinson's keyboard environments. "Keepers of the Deep Sea Light" sets an eerie mood with synth winds and crystalline edges. The classical guitar (Peter Constant) offers a compelling bittersweet melody, encouraged by the courageous theme of the violin. The effect is breathless. "Under Sail" brings in Incan pan pipes against the tiny sounds of the churango; the flute played by Fred Shade then steps to view the horizon. When two flutes join together, it is like a sail filling with wind. Atkinson -- who plays keyboards, guitar, percussion, bass, and churango -- has composed sophisticated visions here -- not so much of Australia's terrain, be it wet or dry, but of the sense of adventure, of being on the edge and striking out to unknown territory. By the end of the album, "Rapture of the Deep," you might just be ennobled enough to depart on an adventure of your own. Excellent album.
AllMusic Review by Carol Wright