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Album Review: Kevin Purdy - Illumination

24 August 2012 | 3:25 pm | Michael Smith

Illumination is quite a journey.

About a year and a half ago, Sydneysider Kevin Purdy released an album titled Deviant Nature, on which he stepped away from the lyrical soundscapes for which he'd become known, particularly through his work in Tooth, for more straightforward song structures and pop harmonies. With Illuminations, released in a limited-edition vinyl LP format, he's returned to those soundscapes. Armed with just a guitar and a classic Prophet 5 analogue synthesiser, he's created five intriguing and profoundly ethereal pieces of contemplative ambience that you'll probably only get to hear on Brent Clough's The Night Air on Radio National, which at least provides a much-needed outlet for this sort of work.

I must admit the most intriguing aspect of this sort of album is just how you compose these sorts of works, which are obviously beautifully crafted yet seem to exist, in a sense, beyond the concept of an artist actually sitting down and working out notes and arrangements. Much like the random field sounds, quite literally, of birds and the wind through trees and the ambience of nature itself that provides a subtle context upon which Purdy then allows his own generated sounds to drift in the opening piece on side two, Here Above, In Silence, it almost feels as if the piece has created itself, not quite randomly but without anything more than the composer being present to press the record button and capture what slips out of the subconscious.

The dreamy minimalism of the first two pieces – First Light Through Mist and Heat Of The Morning Earth – are the perfect accompaniment to imagining yourself seeing that light and feeling that heat as your mind drifts with the sounds (best experienced through headphones), before the unexpected percussive rhythm of Mountains Dreaming revs things up, taking you out of side one. The longest piece, Cloud Shadows On Hill, which completes side two, features sound poet Amanda Stewart delivering thoughts and ideas whispered at the edge of consciousness as sounds evolve and devolve around them. All up, Illumination is quite a journey.