WINTER LIGHT

 

The music of Jeff Greinke has always been about creating mood. To this end, his early works were comprised of a complex arrangement of drones and pads that often approached the atonal. As his compositions became more sophisticated, so did his musicianship and that which he expressed through it. On Winter Light (54’41”), Greinke continues to create a mood, but the atmosphere is conveyed less in terms of timbre than through melody, harmony and pacing. Writing uniquely structured pieces for synthesized chamber ensemble, Greinke navigates between tundral gloom, Ambient noir and arctic brilliance. Although the tones on Winter Light are bright, crisp and clear, the feel is often melancholic and confidently cold. Beautiful, stark spaces are opened and then filled with enchanting and elegant sounds. It is the longing for springtime made audible.
STARS END

Jeff Greinke, Winter Light
Take a black and white film camera. Find a landscape rimed with an early snow–open plains, a lonely country road, a Japanese garden, a desolate urban/industrial center. Pan across it in almost imperceptibly slow motion, time slowed to a crawl. Let the images linger–the cold depths of grey snow, an intermittent glint of misplaced sunlight on icy crystals, the slovenly dance of wind-blown snow. When you’ve got all that committed to film, overlay it with Jeff Greinke’s Winter Light. It will match perfectly. Greinke has created a series of wintry tone-poems painted in the chilly hues of winter, achingly beautiful works with a perfect touch of season-appropriate melancholy. These are film scores in search of their scenes, narratives built note by note with impeccable clarity. Winter Light is a contemplative work of fully realized musical imagery. From the tactile sadness of “Lament” and the Asian-hued quietude of “Moving to Malaysia” and “Under the Pagoda” to the clouds-passing gentility of “Orographic,” Winter Light is a pleasure to experience again and again.
HYPNAGOGUE

Jeff Greinke – Winter Light
(Lotuspike)
4
Veteran ambient composer Greinke’s latest solo work seems to branch out in some new directions as compared to past releases. His earlier albums echoed a similar fourth-world ambient path as Brian Eno – not a bad thing by any stretch, but seemingly more about atmosphere than song. This latest work seems to harness a more melodic, even almost classical/chamber element. It’s a wonderfully reflective (and visual) selection of songs, resplendent with pianos and languid string sections. Suffice to say if you find yourself listening to stuff like Arvo Part or classic atmospheric film scores, this should hold a definite appeal. Beautiful, refined, and very tasteful work that should appeal to a wide cross-section of listeners.
— Todd Zachritz  NEWS 4U

JEFF GREINKE: Winter Light (CD on Lotuspike)
This CD from 2007 offers 55 minutes of calming music.
Stately piano is supported by orchestral strings and a hint of woodwinds. Fragile chords unfurl with distinct gentility. The overall mood is delicate, unhurried and pensive.
It’s misleading to discuss the electronics, since the majority of the “traditional” instruments are synthetically generated. Actual electronics are rather sparse here, applied as hints and subliminal touches. Atmospheric tones are the strongest evidence of synthesizers at play.
Icy percussion of a severely understated manner punctuates a few of the pieces, contributing hesitant tempos that suit the sedate melodies.
A rigid sense of classical structure dominates the tunes. The piano and other crystalline keyboards pursue a serious recital-style performance, while the orchestral elements swarm with regal determination, generating vaporous embellishments that paint a series of melancholy gray skies above a frozen landscape.
Compositionally, this music has a strong cinematic feel to it, excellently capturing a protagonist’s desire to flee a frozen landscape only to find himself returning to that chilled homeland in the end.
SONIC CURIOUSITY

Winter Light
Lotuspike (2007)

Winter, more than any other season, is largely ignored as an inspiration for instrumental music, perhaps because of the abundance (even overkill) of “holiday music.” Yet winter seems ideal for serving as an impetus for ambient music, since the cold, forbidding barren season is also suffused with a somber and pristine beauty, tinted by a combination of daylight diffused through hazy ice crystals suspended in the air and startling clear moonlight glistening off of new-fallen snow. Maybe too many ambient artists live in southern climes. With Jeff Greinke’s Winter Light, this dearth thankfully ends.

Visually, the back cover of the album evokes the same visceral response to a harsh landscape as the opening shots do in the brilliant film, Fargo. The image is of telephone poles along a rural road receding to the horizon, cloaked in snow, with a distant dwelling sitting forlorn and isolated. Greinke captures these melancholic images in music which is almost painfully beautiful to listen to, as if one were indulging in memories acutely sad yet also nostalgically addicting. As a lover of darker-themed yet melodic music, Winter Light has become one of my favorite releases of recent years.

With the exception of two world-fusion influenced tracks (the gentle swaying Asia-meets-chamber-esque “Moving to Malaysia” and the mystical syncopation of the gamelan-like “Under the Pagoda”), Winter Light reminds me of Mychael Danna’s superb neo-chamber minimalist work, Skys. Both albums are dominated by repeating musical phrases played on echoed piano, accompanied by textural synths, fluid washes and sampled orchestral sections (almost all in minor keys). One also hears echoes of previous Greinke efforts (Wide View or the non-rhythmic pieces on his classic In Another Place). I’ve read that fans of Greinke’s other works, e.g. Places of Motility and Cities in Fog, aren’t enamored of this release. I don’t doubt this is more accessible music, but the overall somber mood of the album hardly qualifies it as a mere fluff or being “too pretty.”

“Ascent” begins the album with a repeating piano refrain under which various orchestral strings and horns are subtly layered, culminating with a mournful “crescendo” of sorts. “Lament” is even more shadowy and subdued, with sparse piano and muted oboe and strings, along with other keyboards (recognizable as “vintage” Greinke) that ebb and flow with a sad sense of resignation. It’s as if Greinke took a musical “snapshot” of an isolating and harsh winter environment. “Deep Inside” ushers in on minimal bell tones, a two-note piano refrain, tuba-esque swells, soft female chorals, sparse upright bass notes, and more trademark Greinke synths. The listener feels as if he/she is walking quietly down the halls of a deserted house, as if one were afraid to disturb the stillness permeating the surroundings. “The Long Road Home” follows, conveying a feeling of a lengthy journey, one step at a time, during which one’s footsteps are heavy with emotion and yet one is inexorably and resignedly drawn to the destination. Subtle strings, minimal piano, and an occasional muted beat unwind during the track’s eight minute duration.

I could wax eloquently about the remaining four tracks, (e.g. the inescapable feeling of viewing a broad vista on “Across the Great Basin” or the delicate interplay between plucked harp and synths on “Orographic”), but review length must be honored. Suffice it to say that as much as I love the other two Greinke releases I mentioned earlier, Winter Light is, in my opinion, his masterpiece. Music this beautiful, evocative, and luxuriantly intimate brings me near the point of tears. If you cherish the music of Tim Story, Mychael Danna, or to a lesser extent Kevin Keller, go out (or online) now and buy Winter Light. Even played in the heat of summer (i.e. now), it’s still an enriching and satisfying listening experience. I can hardly wait to hear it in January.

Bill Binkelman
New Age Reporter

Rating: Excellent

Rating:  [5 of 5 Stars!]

Like his Soundtracks CD, Jeff Greinke again shows his softer side on Winter Light, a collection of quiet pieces with a new age bent. Piano and gentle synthesizers emphasize bells, strings, and other delicate sounds. The mood is sometimes brighter, as on “Moving to Malaysia,” with its bells, piano and pizzicato strings, or the faraway pensive tones of “Under the Pagoda.” At other times the tendency is toward melancholy tunes such as “Lament.” In either case, the pieces retain a shade of grey throughout, befitting the winter theme and matching the monochromatic cover art. Strains of something like oboe dominate “Deep Inside,” along with plucked notes like an upright bass. “The Long Road Home” is sparse, reverberant bass tones alongside strings, piano, and a few synth textures for atmosphere. “The Conversation” is similar, with the piano just off in the distance, the strings a bit darker. You can hear the care put into each selection, like a collection of related short stories. Oboes add a sense of majesty to “Across the Great Basin,” though without great fanfare, as rhythm is pretty much absent throughout. One of my favorites is “Orographic,” with surprisingly playful piano and a silky smooth synth that plays like an angelic choir. This CD is great for curling up on cold winter nights.

© 2008 Phil Derby / Electroambient Space

Jeff Greinke – “Winter Light” CD – Veteran ambient composer Greinke’s latest solo work seems to branch out in some new directions as compared to past releases. His earlier albums echoed a similar fourth-world ambient path as Brian Eno – not a bad thing by any stretch, but seemingly more about atmosphere than song. This latest work seems to harness a more melodic, even almost classical/chamber element. It’s a wonderfully reflective (and visual) selection of songs, resplendent with pianos and languid string sections. Suffice to say if you find yourself listening to stuff like Arvo Part or classic atmospheric film scores, this should hold a definite appeal. Beautiful, refined, and very tasteful work that should appeal to a wide cross-section of listeners. (Godsend)