Back in 2009, Drifting/Falling released Collected Recordings. It has since gone out of print – until now, at least – because the music has found a way back, re-released on the label 12k. Now, it comes complete with two additional, unreleased tracks that were written almost five years ago.
The finest music is a timeless thing of beauty. Gareth Dickson’s music on Collected Recordings shimmers with its hazy, deep stretch of thunderous drone. Lighter guitar notes shine through the thicker texture, lifting the shield against the murk and hoisting the hope of a hero high above it, the rock that stands against the surging surf, not just breaking up the rise of a gloomy, brooding atmosphere but softening its heart with affection and affirmation. Daydreams are born.
‘If I’, the second track, is a contrast to the opening drone. Dickson gets the most out of his guitar. His music alternates between crystal clear, finger-plucked melodies and serene instrumentals that are washed out with boatloads of reverb. A thin slice of delay emanates from the note like a ripple on the water, and the fiery crackle of folk blazes itself onto the fretboard. It’s beautiful to behold.
Along the borders, Dickson’s voice can be heard floating in and out of the ambient-tinted world. Rich bass notes splash gold against the rock, splintering open the drone. Above the drone, notes slide up a couple of frets and the strings ring out with their bright sustain. Hovering on a chord, the strings shine, glowing like blurry lights.
The music is travelling, gazing out of the opaque, glassy windows, past the sparse hills that are home to nothing but gentle ambient guitar, wrapped up in a lovely coat of wool to keep itself warm, but desolate to the point of isolation. If it were not for the vocal, they would be alone.
The ponderous, thoughtful strings conjure up a spiritual state where every single note lives long in its afterlife of sustain. Contemplative thoughts start to shape themselves as Dickson’s melody whirls around. The folk-inflected, finger plucked melodies make way for a very rural, open sound, one that is entirely natural and authentic. The melody of ‘Harmonics’ is Heaven sent, the chiming bells ringing out with the sound of natural harmonics, usually so shy. Secretly, they are coaxed out of the guitar.
The ambient instrumentals drift into folk music, but it is never one or the other; it perches between both, balancing perfectly between the well-worn gate that separates the two pastures. It’s an incredibly open sound, the musical breather that you’ve waited for – five years and longer – and it’s one hundred percent natural. The thoughtful vocals seem to hang in the air, like the strong scent of burning leaves, disguised as smoke, hovering over the woods. The countryside stretches out before the listener like branches longing for an embrace, taking its shape through the guitar’s harmonic peace and unity, but it also runs parallel to the road of song, the vocal narrating the journey and keeping the music firmly on its intended route. Later, though, the vocal road disappears. It does return, but the once-bright strings lose much of their initial attack.
Dickson blends his clean, distinct melodies with some reverb-heavy washes, the bass notes chiming as they echo into eternity. ‘Ping Pong’, the final track, is delightful, a beautiful, subtle reverb that never ages. Here, the notes are invited to come out and play. Speeding up towards the end, the track retains its calm, the delay entangled in the sustain. The music on Collected Recordings hasn’t aged at all. In fact, the five year gap feels more like a second, the delay tailgating.