Jeff’s new CD Virga now available
“Virga: Streaks or wisps of precipitation falling from a cloud but evaporating before reaching the ground. In certain cases, shafts of virga may precede a microburst.” NOAA
From Spotted Peccary/Lotuspike:
Virga is the eighteenth release from Jeff Greinke, whose respected career as a musician, composer, performer and sound-sculptor spans 25 years. With a discography that includes album titles like Weather From Another Planet, Cities In Fog, Big Weather, Changing Skies, Moving Climates, and Before The Storm to name a few, it’s clear that Greinke draws great inspiration from the atmospheric conditions of his environment. “This music is informed by my visual surroundings, primarily the landscapes, big skies and weather of the desert Southwest,” confirms Greinke, who currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, where the Virga phenomenon is common during the monsoon season.
Greinke continues, “With Virga I returned to a textural and ambient approach to composing music, similar to my work of the 80’s and 90’s, and merged that with the more harmonic / melodic sound I’ve been exploring in recent years. After completing the title track I was struck by how the sonic fabric of the music resembled curtains of rain falling from the sky, so I was inspired to call it Virga. Virga sometimes occurs at the onset of dangerous and dramatic weather. The mood present preceding an intense storm is similar to the subtle foreboding quality of some of the pieces on this album.”
The music on Virga takes shape as strata of slow moving melodies stream their way through expansive atmospherics and pastoral passages of ambient chamber music, highlighted by cello, trumpet and piano on many selections; all drifting together to construct complex harmonic musical skyscapes. The cumulative result is a collection of vast, textural, cinematic, and melodic compositions with a strong sense of mood and place that gently evolve and drift… like the clouds themselves.
To these ears, Virga, the latest offering from Jeff Greinke, is a stunning soundtrack in search of the touching, beautiful, meaningful film to which it should rightfully belong. A neo-classical work edged with ambient expressions, Virga is emotionally packed and gorgeously constructed. It’s engaging from the first spattering of here-comes-the-rain notes in the opening title track and proceeds to just get deeper and more interesting from there. Greinke has always composed with a strong cinematic flair and that, along with his stated intent to capture the feel of the environment as a storm approaches, carries clearly through all the pieces on Virga. In “The Wake,” Greinke conjures darkening skies in a slow-moving, somber tone. I love the Asian-flavored edge at work in “East Facing Slope.” (Similarly, I enjoyed that same feel in “Moving to Malaysia” from Winter Light.) There’s a strong Mark Isham quality to the track–think Tibet–that makes it the musical equivalent of staring into a Japanese pen-and-ink drawing or watching the colors darken on a mountainside as weather rolls in. “Before the Storm” deftly captures its titular image as woodwinds swirl like gathering clouds and distantly rumbling bass notes carry the blue-black threat of hard rain. “Contrails” is suitably light in tone, with wispy piano notes and high synth strings describing washed-blue skies and the return of the sun. By contrast, its followup track, “Partial Light,” imparts an edge of drama with an abundance of minor chords, long-held notes and phrases that ease down the scale in short steps, all with a gentle rush of wind beneath it. There’s a pure and gentle romance to the stilted structure of “Old Friends” that quite honestly threatens to move me to tears. Greinke’s master craftsmanship is on display here, track after track. Every piece of work here is rich and full, landscapes completely described in intimate detail while still leaving space for you to create your own mental pictures. This is a disk you’ll return to often to re-explore, and it will easily stand up to the scrutiny. For its depth and beauty, Virga is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.
Jeff Greinke (joined on several tracks by cellist Christiana Morgan and trumpet player Lesli Dalaba) continues to evolve his music away from his more abstract and textural ambient beginnings, choosing to explore a more melodic neo-classical minimalist landscape on Virga, his latest CD and, from where I stand, one of the best recordings of his long career. While some cuts are less overtly “soundtrackish” than his previous CD, venturing into ambient soundscape territory, I believe that the overriding musical presence here is still closer to that of Winter Light and, to a lesser but still noticeable degree, Wide View, than it is to past works such as In Another Place, Places of Motility and Cities in Fog.
I’m well aware that some of Greinke’s long-time fans are somewhat discouraged by this new direction he is headed in, and they are entitled to that opinion of course. However, baring the obvious statement that an artist must answer the call of his/her muse if he/she is to be true to his/her musical self, I think this new direction represents a greater depth of emotion, a more complex (certainly not less so) approach to the music itself, and resonates on a more direct (i.e. less abstract) level than purer “ambient” pieces ever could. Of course, that’s only my personal opinion.
Not everything on Virga is confined to the neo-classical minimalist description from above, though. The opening title track features a rapid tempo piano theme played out against swirling keyboards, descending in a lush crescendo of sorts. “night flyers” opens amidst a nocturnal chorus of synthesized creatures set against shimmering synthesizers and a plaintive echoed piano. As he did on Winter Light‘s “Moving to Malaysia” and “Under the Pagoda,” Greinke again displays his affinity for Asian musical influences on “east facing slope” with gently plucked koto and delicate bell tones, joined by Morgan’s sonorous cello and Dalaba’s trumpet. “contrails” flows on airy layers of keyboards underneath echoed piano and the track could easily be classified as spacemusic especially when a particularly warm analog-ish sounding synthesizer is brought into focus.
Yet, it’s the more minimalist-classical pieces here that blow me away the most—the sorrowful beauty of “the wake,” the expansive orchestral openness of “slow rise,” the stark desolation and subtle dissonance of “abandoned place,” the haunting drama of “partial light” and the slow-paced deliberate compassion of “old friends.”
In the end, Virga is less “passive” yet also more ambient, at times, than Winter Light may have been perceived, but it’s a subtle distinction for the most part. If you, like me, love this new direction that Jeff Greinke is headed in, you will greatly enjoy delving into the many pleasures of Virga, walking down its paths of beauty tinted with wonder married to despair, and serenity clouded by mystery. By the way, it goes without saying that since this is a Lotuspike release, and mastered by Ben Cox, the sound is tremendous, rife with nuance and finely captured detail and expertly mixed and engineered from every perspective.
Zone Music Reporter
Jeff Greinke realizes works inspired by something outside of music. The intricacies of climate, weather and time mimic the feelings he carries within. His CD Virga (55’36″) strives to give musical form to the sensation evoked by our planet’s atmospheric activities. Applying a classicist form to his succinctly brief works Greinke produces 12 formal, fully composed and arranged Electro-ambient chamber music pieces. The listener’s grasp on time weakens as in the span of a few minutes untold hours may seem to pass. The sound is sometimes airy, but never air-headed as the majority of the tracks posses a somber, elegiac sense. Greinke even references a few pieces from an earlier CD Soundtracks. With synthesizers alongside mellow trumpet and cello lines, Virga‘s classical influences lead the music toward territory inhabited by the likes of Harold Budd, Tim Story and K Leimer. With no exaggerated expressive effects, Greinke follows his contemporaries in simplicity, restraint, dignity, proportion and interest in form. Grenike is an artist working to engage us with our deepest emotions. His music unites us with one another – as not only are we connected to this music but connected by it. STARS END