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Chiaroscuro

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus - Chiaroscuro
Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016)

For music junkies looking for something off the beaten path, you might want to check out Chiaroscuro, a recording out now on the Bent Records label. It’s a collaboration between harmonic singing group Baird Hersey & Prana and the Toronto-based percussion group Nexus led by Garry Kvistad.

Mr. Baird is behind such recordings as Waking the Cobra, Vocal Meditation on the Chakras and Gathering the Light with Krishna Das.

Mr. Kvistad and Nexus have an extensive performing, touring and recording history that includes such recordings as Paul Horn and Nexus, Changes, Origins, Toccata, Lullaby, DrumTalker, Rituals and Out of the Blue.

As luck would have it that this collaboration came out of a new instrument built by Mr. Kvistad– the vistaphone. The vistaphone is a set of chimes that are tuned to the same harmonics and scale to the second higher pitch used by harmonic singers. Add in the vibraphones, xylophones, orchestral drums, glockenspiel, Chinese gongs, Balinese gongs, marimba and the Balinese instrument the gender used in gamelan music and immerse the lot into the singers and harmonic singers of Prana and you turn out Chiaroscuro.

Borrowed from an art term and defined as the effect created out of intense contrast of light and dark, Chiaroscuro delves deep into contrasts of light and dark, the ancient and the contemporary and East and West.

From the very opening of “A Splinter of Dawn” through tracks like “The Rituals of Dusk” and “A Vast Expanse of Sky,” the listener is lulled by a charm of ethereal vocals, the tang of bells and gongs and the reedy turns of harmonic singing.

While this recording might not be to everyone’s taste, this combination explores the music wholly through percussion and the human voice. Tracks like “A Crown of Radiant Fire” and “Luminous Ocean, Rising Waves” build on that contrast between light and dark even by way of track sequencing.

Falling further down the rabbit’s hole, listeners get the full force of Prana’s singers by way of tracks like “We Are All in the Garden,” “The Wheel of Impermanence” and “The Lord of the Monkeys” in the Vox Pulsaitio section without percussion on the recording.

While some might pass off Chiaroscuro as a little too avant garde for easy listening, it’s always good to step out of one’s comfort zone. The performances on Chiaroscuro are as impeccable as they are impressive. Those into meditation are sure to enjoy the contrasts of the first seven tracks with their ethereal light, harmonic singing and gamelan influences and those listening for vibrancy the bare bones interworking of vocals are truly stunning.

Buy the digital version of Chiaroscuro

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