Appropriately titled Afternoon Ambience, the new six-track album from Dan Blanchard is an escape into the mind’s cavernous corridors. Sleek and at times cascading like the sunset creeps up across Mother Earth, the hauntingly beautiful violin strings inject an honored second wind. These songs, these hymn-like instrumentals are triumphant expressions of Blanchard’s treasured talents. What is always present and never wavers in Blanchard’s selections are offerings of peace and tranquility.
Blanchard, an artist classically trained on the santoor by Indian master Pandit Satish Vyas, blends ancient Indian classical music with world and electronic music. These tracks have a thread that ribbons throughout the sonic experience – a positive echo chamber. Even with the pitter patter of the percussion, the breathtaking santoor glides the listener along the flowing, blissful riverbed. From the opener “Unwind” to the final track, “Let Go”, Blanchard’s journey is honed into the sequential chapter-like narrative. In other words, he’s following a story. It feels more like an awakening. While it’s called “Unwind” I found the rousing music bedrock to trigger all my senses. Yes, I was relaxed and subdued, but my mind felt suspiciously invigorated. What was next? What sound will be switching my attention next. These songs call to mind the power of music, the healing power of music.
By track four, “Building”, the tempo picks up. This particular offering was a highlight for me. The flute and the fluttering percussion gulped me up. The zig-zagging, tip-toeing strings were just as delicious. Often when I hear violin, I feel somber or a sadness. That is not the case in “Building”. The violins felt inviting and in a way, I could feel the nudging. It’s quite an inspiring song.
I’d also like to highlight the last track, “Let Go”. Starting out like the sound the morning mist makes across the fields, Blanchard manifests the sound of something brewing on the horizon. The hollow-like flutes stream out like tendrils across the ground. I loved that this is the last track. I imagine if you practice yoga, then this is typically the Shavasana or Mrtasana soundtrack. You bring it all together, you combine the breathing movements of the last hour (or two) and collide your mind with your body. I think Blanchard realizes this in his art and he brilliantly captures this healing and connection in all of his songs on Afternoon Ambience.
I get it – we all have many things demanding our attention. Adding one more thing to the list seems like a chore. Afternoon Ambiance is the antithesis of a to-do. When is the last time you really sat and listened to your breath? Or sat in the grass and watched the sky above you for more than two minutes? These songs could easily be nature’s score. Blanchard’s fantastic album should be celebrated. It’s a triumphant artistic expression that indeed heals the soul and the mind. Fans of any musical genre, especially the global music genre, should peel back the layers, really listen to these tracks. Blanchard finds a way to make you re-visit what makes you take flight. These songs are a gift.