Kevin Purdy: Illumination
- Kevin Purdy is a stellar muso, producer, composer, arranger and many other things besides. I've been following him and the scintillating trail of psych, prog, kraut, folk, pop ambience that leaks woozily into his wake for a while now, but to read over his long and storied bio I still feel like a big ignoramus. Since the '90s (which is now, officially, a long time ago), Kev's been laying down stuff as variously, Tooth, Purdy and Kevin Purdy and with every new thing he does, the Australian music media have followed close behind with celebratory fanfares and plaudits, yelling to anyone who will listen, this gear is awesome, get a faceful of it. I don't think any of it sticks, though. Were I to walk down the street and ask the next ten people I meet 'who the heck is Kevin Purdy?', I think I'd be met with a lot of not knowing. If any record was ever going to shoot the Purdy brand into the shiny light of stardom, it should have been 2010's Deviant Nature. Years in the making, because it involved an orchestra sized collection of folks to create, it was every bit a psych-folk-rock-pop masterpiece that blew the socks off everyone who got to hear it. Still, no ARIA that year. That being the case, Kevin Purdy's latest work, Illumination, is, I'm sad to say, extraordinarily unlikely to change Kev's situation. Working as Kevin Purdy this time round, he's said goodbye to the small army who helped on Deviant Nature and leaned back into some seriously relaxing ambience. Ever since Eno coined the term, there's been very few breakout hits busting out of the ambient genre, but those of you who give Kevin Purdy's Illumination a go will find yourselves well compensated for your time. At it's best ambient, as in other musical styles that work with seemingly limited pallettes, is all about employing musical resources subtley and strategically to produce clever, often unexpected effects. Using, nearly exclusively, just guitar and synthesiser (with just a few samples and the rarest vocal) to produce great sheets of sound, the results are exceptionally nuanced. The five, long-form pieces that make up llumination are all based on themes of landscape and the environment, which the music evokes majestically. Very majestically, really, I caught myself being reminded, just once or twice, for instance on the track Heat Of The Morning Earth, of the very best work that ol' cheese-meister Vangelis did on the soundtrack to Bladerunner; it doesn't get much more majestic than that, does it? I'd've loved to have played that track on the radio, but, well, nearly eight minutes there. If there was to be a radio-sized slice off this record it would be the track, Mountains Dreaming. It breaks from the pattern of the record by featuring more samples than the rest of this combined, but that's still not that many, really. Reverb laced drums and samples of buzzing sitars, drunkenly, boistrously bleeping machines or an occasional blast of sax haunt a soundscape that sounds as wide as the sky and the quietly moaning vocal in the background, which I believe comes courtesy of Amanda Stewart, is exquisite. There's much more to enjoy, in the warm guitar distortion of First Light Through Mist, or the enveloping peace of Here Above, In Silence or the unsettled mutterings and dissonant crunches of noise that inhabit what sounds like a disturbing train journey in the epic Cloud Shadows On A Hill.
I had a good time with Kevin Purdy's Illumination. Like I said, ambient music being what it is and Kevin Purdy being who he is, I don't expect to see this on too many end-of-year-best lists, but I will be thinking of it, I am certain, for some time to come.
- Chris Cobcroft.