Seth Nehil

Umbra

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Umbra is one of Seth Nehil's strongest solo efforts and his most immersive since Tracing the Skin of Clouds. It consists of three mid-length tracks that move in and out of each other like three movements of a larger work. For the most part, they are drones of an acoustic nature, although when sounds are massed like they are here, the mind can easily hear things that are not really there. But the main components seem to be acoustic at heart: Tibetan bowls, bowed metal, rubbed resonating objects, and field recordings, both the urban and natural kind, to which Nehil has added the contributions of Bobin Eirth on recorders and reeds and Bethany Wright on voice (Michael Northam also appears, obliquely credited for "assistance"). All these elements (and there are many; each listen seems to bring out new ones) are left untreated -- or so it seems -- but in the denser passages, as in "Situla," the very nature of the drone becomes ambiguous before reverting to its "obviously acoustic" state. This ambiguity is Nehil's strongest asset, along with the fact that the music always sounds so meaningful and natural. The sudden arrival of a synthesizer tone 13 minutes into the third track threatens the architecture of the work, but the composer turns what is first perceived as an intrusion into another enigma, making shimmering harmonics (again, acoustic or not?) grow out of the tone for a gentle finale. That part and the vocal drone in "Mira" are the highlights of this very fine disc.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
13:11
2
9:23
3
20:07
blue highlight denotes track pick