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In Retrospect: 1980-2003

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Album Review

Quietly, far from the musical mainstream, or even the centerpiece attention of his chosen genre, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and ethnomusicologist David Parsons has been assembling a formidable body of work. Over the course of 23 years, his studies, travels, and collaborations have taken him all over the world. From his journeys both inward and outward, Parsons has assembled a sound mercurial, elliptical, and undoubtedly his own. Unlike other practitioners in his chosen field, Parsons makes no attempt to sound "Authentic." Instead, he chooses to convey essences and imbue them with his own unique persona: that of a Westerner whose delight in sound and ancient cultures translates to interpreting the world around him and conveying elements of both with grace, intelligence, literacy, reverence, and emotional honesty. There is an elegance and a humility in all of Parsons' work, from his beautiful and stunning 1980s compositions such as Himalaya, in 1989, the sprawling Yatra in 1990, the stunning Ngaio Gamelan in 1999, and his quiet and meditative Maitreya: The Future Buddha in 2002. This double-CD collection, assembled and sequenced by Parsons, contains works from all phases of his maverick career — thus far — and creates an absolutely stunning view of his inner world, but with a twist. Containing more than two-and-a-half hours of music, these two discs offer a uniquely streamed and articulated aural universe where elements of the ethic, the spiritual, the traditional, and the integrational future combine. In the universe Parsons inhabits, origins are noted and respected, yet the seams blur so that cultural separateness disappears into ether, and only transcultural identity remains. Here in fact, that aesthetic is even more pronounced than it is on his individual albums. Drone, ethereal drift, pulse and purpose adorn these works, from the shortest of them, "Introspect," to the longest, "Dorje Ling," and "Manasarovar." Organic and electronic instruments are woven together with silence and sampled voices in prayer, cutting across chronological timelines to create an entirely new atmosphere, one in which this overview of Parsons' history becomes an entirely new work in his catalog rather than just a look back. And as such, it becomes a wondrous document about the present tense as well. This is a deeply poetic and moving album, one that shakes off the trappings of a "best-of" and offers listeners a way of hearing this work in a brilliant new context. And for those who are approaching Parsons for the first time, In Retrospect is, more than an introduction to one of the most unique and consistent electro-acoustic composers of our age (who just happens to have influenced a whole slew of bedroom sound prophets/pirates, from the post-techno generation of Richard D. James and Biosphere, to Loop Guru and Thomas Köner), it is a an induction into an entirely new sonic universe.


Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Since 1975, this New Zealand artist has made numerous trips to India to absorb the culture, study the music, and record performances by indigenous artists. In addition to producing two albums of traditional Tibetan ritual music by the monks of The Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery (for the Fortuna Records Sacred Ceremonies series), Parsons has translated the essence of his oriental journeys through the lush yet profound soundscapes he has created for a number of highly regarded solo albums. Originally...
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In Retrospect: 1980-2003, David Parsons
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