One peril of being a listener to large and wide spans of music is the drawing of focus from one genre to another at intermittent times. It’s a welcome return when one sees a name or album title that conjures up memories of a distinct time or entire style that hasn’t been considered enough recently. This is how I came to find out about Los Angeles-based musician Darryl Blood’s new album, Air Drop, after my lens has moved away long enough for
things to have reformed unbeknownst to me.
Since I last remembered Blood’s work as a rock-imbued affair drawing from classic rock, roots, and post-classic country, his output as a composer and (continued) songwriter came as a welcome but wholly logical shift. His ear for melody and structure are what makes for a solid soundtrack composer, and the tendencies towards incorporating modern classical elements has fully gelled as Air Drop.
Arguably themed into “meditations” and “pieces/songs,” the titular tracks are fragmentary in nature but have underlying explorations of space, ease, tension & timbre-as-lead; pieces given a unique name are unto themselves works, balancing dynamic piano with expressive E-Bow guitar, percussion & the occasional guest instruments (the FM goodness of a DX7 pops up at one point). When “Novella” (featuring said DX7) emerges from the scattershot percussion and prepared piano curlicues of an “Air Drop,” the steady beat not only provides the sole example of an insistent rhythm, but also provides a midway point injection of pure momentum.
Newly found frameworks intermesh with freeform noise and flourishes to bridge the gaps and create new links between refined freeness and steady purpose. This balancing act frames the relatively short running time into a singular, solid musical statement where anything goes as long as the balance of emotions and technique are deft. This balance is never in danger, though, and what the listener gets is a centered image of compositional thought: to
frame a space in a way that is tangibly intangible, a formed void where space is then created. That is the goal of music from the “criticism of function” angle, while the simpler way is to say that these songs emotionally draw, engage the ear, and have a dialogue with the listener based on how much attention you give.
Structure, space, a canvas – Darryl Blood has always understood songs to be capable of creating or becoming those fundamental aspects, and with Air Drop we get to see (or, rather, hear) how those notions are conveyed in a new context with the same knack for memorable writing. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Max Richter, Nico Muhly, Nils Frahm & Kranky Records.