Dan Blanchard — “Afternoon Ambience” (LP)
Afternoon Ambience is a mesmerizing new album from instrumentalist Dan Blanchard. Chill and giving the listener a chance to be lost in your own thoughts, Blanchard sets aside any stressors and rejuvenates your musical spirit. He doesn’t use words, but the sonic wavelengths he composes are special reminders that inner peace is attainable. Yoga practitioners or even daily meditation routines will benefit from Blanchard’s engrossing songs.
World music fans will be enraptured from the flexing wind-instrumentation, calligraphy-like strings and elusive percussion strands. Blanchard’s patience, his slow-building cadence starts from the first song, “Unwind” (Raga Bhimpalasi Alaap). Playing out like a yoga session, he unveils an easy-going sojourn. Just when you think you’re caught up in the airy, wistful patterns of the songs, the dust settles and Blanchard centers the listener. The pace picks up a few notches in the second, track, the aptly titled “Deeper” (Raga Bhimpalasi Jod). Even if you were not one to practice yoga, you could glean from this song a dive into the inner peacefulness Blanchard keeps his listeners apprised. I wished to have lived in this particular cloud of a song a bit longer, as the hexic-like shapes arranging themselves in my imagination calmed me so dearly.
The relaxation continues with “Swirling” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Vilambit Jhaptaal) “Building” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Madhya Teentaal). By now the yoga practice or meditation is more about listening to your breath, matching the natural body rhythms. The same can be said for these transfixing tunes. Blanchard does so much with so little embellishments. After days of listening to pop rock or even hip hop, us music reviews, too, need our opportunities to breakaway and convalesce in the healing waters that make up instrumental music. It’s not a secret that songs such as these are the soundtrack to the Colorado Spring hot waters or the medicinal waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I made that up, but you get the overall picture.
“Ascent” (Raga Bhimpalasi Gat Drut Teentaal) and “Let Go” (based on Raga Bhimpalasi) are the final bookends to Afternoon Ambience. I can’t imagine a better way for a listening experience to come to fruition, or a brainstorming session to wrap-up. I know I keep clamoring to the positives these songs bring to yoga time, but the music is ripe to be heard for any business professional to bridge their morning and afternoon. What an ideal way to spend the lunch hour, clearing your thoughts and replenishing your brain cells. I have to admit, this didn’t occur to me at first, but after listening to Afternoon Ambience throughout the day, I soon found myself completely focused. I didn’t want that 3 p.m. coffee break or hit that afternoon wall. I was block free and supercharged for the remaining half of the work day. Of course “Let Go” could also be interpreted as let go and put on the jammies right after dinner, but that’s another day and another review. Kudos to Blanchard’s six-song album, Afternoon Ambience for shaking up the status quo.