JOHN PUCHIELE ENSEMBLE
‘Change’, the album from the John Puchiele Ensemble, is an instrumental wormhole. ‘Change’ features synths mixed with classical instrumentals, percussive blasts both analogue and digital and a focus on, well, change. The album feels adrift as a whole. Think back to the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with Dave floating through time in space in his own bubble, set to take in the universe as it diversifies and grows. This sense of time shifting and passing, being caught in one moment only to be lost in the next is the theme that, for me, ties the whole album together. It's graceful, huge, melodic and beautiful.
The music speaks to you in a way. Where a lot of new instrumental music is easy to walk to or have in the background, ‘Change’ demands your attention. There’s too much to miss in this album to simply put it on and do something else. Songs like ‘Burning Winds’, which starts the album, grow and amass into a melody after a gestation period, or perhaps a recuperation period. Time is wavy in the soundscape of the John Puchiele Ensemble and although the album arrives in order, it is a glimpse. Devour this album in any order and you will receive a different message each time. ‘Level Rise’ feels barren, devoid of hope, it feels like saying goodbye. Yet if we listen to it from the angle of creating something new from the destruction of what once was then the song becomes uplifting and full of promise. This too is shadowed in the name of the track, Level - to destroy something utterly, and then Rise - as if from the ashes of what is left perhaps.
The album is a talking point, I could rattle on for hours about its intricacies and the possible meanings behind them. But we’re here for music and boy does ‘Change’ deliver that in boatloads too. The swelling strings in ‘An Alternate Green World’ shimmer and swirl on the soundstage, never staying still for a moment as if caught in a new age breeze. It is headphone joy, the transitions between sections and the melodies that share instruments are so fluid it's tantalising. A baseline may start a phrase that a piano will finish, all with the aim of creating a unified sound. It works and it does sound alien at times, with new noises being created right in your own head.
The album is also very varied. The song that best showcases this is, ‘Stages: I. Before / II. Now / III. After’. A journey, a story and a whole city going about its day all at once and forever trapped inside the musical stylings of this song. It bounces from one sway to the next and glows with a spark of human creativity. Absolutely the gem of the album for me. But don’t let me forget the pace at work in ‘Time’s Up’, a song with drums on drums on drums that smashes through what feels like aeons of progress in mere minutes. Or the organ arpeggio that is constantly evolving in ‘Ecology Adrift’, a song that would feel at home in any sci-fi movie that takes place in deep space.