Davies takes the emphasis on what surrounds us and gives it the purpose of encouraging us to notice the eleven phenomena that are used as titles for these pieces.

Discus: 172CD

Josephine Davies (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone); David Beebee (electric piano, effects); Martin Pyne (vibraphone, balafon, percussion)

My interest in ambient music began, like most of the people reading this I guess, in the music of Brian Eno. While he didn’t invent the form, he did much to show that music could respond to and give emphasis to what surrounds us. Some readers might balk at the idea of ‘ambient’ and associate it with shops that sell crystals and incense in tourist resorts. This music is everything that music is not. What I enjoyed about this set is it ability to be true to its inspirations and to show that ambient music is capable of conveying deep meaning, delicate nuance, and the richness of our surroundings without lapsing into hackneyed repetitiveness that so much of the populist forms of this seem to take.

Davies takes the emphasis on what surrounds us and gives it the purpose of encouraging us to notice the eleven phenomena that are used as titles for these pieces. A couple of pieces are short (around 2-minutes), ‘the pleasure of solitude’ (track 2) or ‘the breeze over a meadow’ (track 7), but most run to between 5 and 9 minutes. Of the shorter pieces, ‘the pleasure of solitude’ opens with single vibraphone notes struck like tingsha cymbals with gently tinkling percussion to emphasise the meditative quality of the sounds. This segues into Davies tenor playing rolling lines that tumble, using what sounds like circular breathing, to explore ‘the secret life of the forest’. While not fully immersing in shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) this piece is reminiscent not of calm, still place but of an environment bursting and buzzing with life. I like that ways in which electric piano and vibraphone, on this piece, form a united front over which Davies’s saxophone lines are free to wander as she pleases.

On ‘morning sunlight through a curtain’ (track 4), the electric piano creates a languid mood over which Davies develops lines that convey the sense of coming to consciousness and delighting in the ripples of early morning sunlight. This is followed by balafon lines (with occasional bells and cymbals) to introduce ‘the many colours of bamboo’. The balafon, for this piece is an obvious choice not only for the materials it is made from but also the ways in which each of the notes it produces has a unique colour. In this piece, Davies’s soprano responds to the differences in these notes and to Pyne’s changing rhythms.