I’d like to introduce you to the debut album of a very skilled musician named Brian Wroten. The album is called TASMAN, but before we take a look at it, let’s get a little info on Brian himself:
Brian is an American-born acoustic bass guitarist and composer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Master’s from the University of Tasmania, Hobart in Composition. And here’s a little about the album itself, from Brian: "Tasman" was written & recorded over a 2-year period while I was completing my Master's Degree in Music Composition at the University of Tasmania from 2011-2013. It was written by a student at the Conservatory at the time (me), it was recorded using the Conservatory gear and facilities; features ensembles composed of entirely student musicians, and was mixed and mastered by a student (Caleb Alan Miller). "After completing the recording of the album, I unfortunately had to leave Tasmania and return to the US or face deportation by the Australian Dept. of Immigration & Citizenship because I was unable/ineligible to apply for another visa to extend my stay because of Immigration law at the time. The album for that reason now serves as sort of a "requiem" for my whole Tasmanian experience.” I have to admit this is the first time I have ventured into the world of Tasmanian-inspired music, but after enjoying the album a couple of times over, I have to say that this is some pretty interesting stuff. It’s a combination of intricate musical skill and a lot of feeling and atmosphere. As a tribute to his experiences in Tasmania, the music drifts through quiet passages, uncomfortable tensions, close-your-eyes moments of relaxation - it sweeps in and out of varying moods. The change-ups between themes are mostly subtle, but when they do happen, it’s in rising and falling swells that made sure I was never left with the sense I was standing still. I know nothing of the Tasmanian world, but after listening to TASMAN, I’m pretty sure it must be a place rich in emotional textures - I can truly understand the effect it had on Wroten, and can appreciate why his soul had such a story to tell about his time there. His musical skills are evident from the first note, and each piece highlights those skills with modern, unexpected results. It’s Jazz, it’s Prog, it’s experimental. The way the music is woven together is like nothing I’ve heard before. Abstract in places, soaring and tender in others, TASMAN is Brian Wroten’s canvas, and he paints his story with masterful strokes! Though I’m reluctant to call them “songs” because of the experimental, etude-like nature of the compositions, I’ll use the word to separate one piece from another.
Jinha (10:03) opens the collection with some tasty acoustic bass. The rhythms are drum-like, and - if I was to make a comparison - felt like the opening of Paul Simon’s Late In The Evening. That feeling gives way quickly, however, as the other instruments join in with rich harmonies that take me from an urban environment into an open landscape. Wroten’s bass jangles along and I’m there for the ride!
Aurelia (5:39) is a harmonics lover’s dream. The song takes the driving flavour of Jinha and eases it back to a much more restful experience. The flutes speak their curious language here, that’s for sure! Tasman Sea (11:34) is a big number, filled with plenty of forward movement. This is the first real “modern” experience on the album. It’s up-tempo, very fusion oriented. The instruments are well-layered; my ears had plenty to take in here, that’s for sure. Swan (6:10) is a stark piece, lonely and mysterious with its background whispering, and heavy bass - what shall I call it - cacophony of disturbing imagery. If I’ve been on a moving journey through Tasmania so far, this is a place where I stop and hunker down in a less-than safe environment. It borders on fear. The impact on me as a listener was that the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.