(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
Visible Breath is the name for the project of UK multi-instrumentalist Dun Strummin. I’m not sure if that is his real name or just a “stage” name. (It would be great for a former guitar player, wouldn’t it?) Degrees Of Light is Visible Breath’s second disc, the first was released in 2004 with the title of Fuse. Although it isn’t clear from the liner notes or the web site, I believe Dun plays all of the instruments himself. There are a few female vocalists that appear on the disc as well.
If I didn’t know differently, I would swear this one was recorded sometime in the early 80s, because it has that distinct feel to it. You know the sound, one of those albums that featured the Fairlight CMI on it. The unmistakable sterility of digital synthesizers is present here in all its glory but honestly, this time around that’s not a bad thing at all. The disc is divided into two sections; the first is a spacey suite of tracks called “First Orbit”. This reminds me of something Geoff Downes would have done on his first solo album The Light Program but with the addition of some melodic guitar work. That funky electronic keyboard bass and the electronic drums really take me back. The airy synth patches are very effective here and it gives the music a somewhat new age/neo prog mood that is very effective.
The second half of the album gets a bit weaker for my taste. The vocal tracks don’t seem to be as well developed as the instrumental stuff but I wouldn’t say they are bad at all. They’re just a little too poppy for me. I think folks who are into the more recent British prog stuff like Magenta and Karnataka might be able to appreciate this more than I do. From Massachusetts, Gabrielle Agachiko who is in a project called Moombi sings on “Desire”. The song after that is “An Inpectre Calls”, a short silly number with some digital trumpet sounds. After that is another instrumental called “Moonlight Fiddle” with, you guessed it, digital violin sounds.
The track “Frightened Whisper” is probably my favorite of the vocal tracks and features Ohio native, Penny Moorhead from Penny’s Scar. This is a moody atmospheric track that has slight Kate Bush quality. Another instrumental “Aurora” follows that in a similar style to the stuff on the first half of the album. The last song “Silence Of The Night” features vocalist Maria Rogers, the only singer from the UK on here. It’s another very light track and not really that exciting. While all of the vocalists are very professional sounding and they all wrote their own lyrics, I just don’t really enjoy the vocal tracks all that much.
The album ends on a strange note with a “bonus” track. I don’t really understand how a new CD can have a bonus track but more music is always good I guess. “Winterlight” starts out with some crowd noise like it was recorded at a live show but when the crowd gets really wild, I’m left with the impression that the crowd was just dubbed over in the track. I guess that’s why he’s called it the “(improbable mix)”. Not a bad little number though, with some nice bright keyboard work and melodic guitar.
Overall, this one is fairly interesting although not terribly ground breaking. For folks with nostalgia for those 80s prog keyboard sounds and a style to match, this should be right up their alley. Similar to things like Geoff Downes, Jean-Michel Jarre, Eddie Jobson and later Jean-Luc Ponty, Dun Strummin is an excellent musician and has some really good ideas. Hopefully the next one will be even better. File under: semi retro futuristic neo new age fusion.