With a couple of years gap, Portland (Oregon) based multi-instrumentalist Daniel Crommie reappeared on my radar in 2022 with Two of A Kind, a collaborative album featuring violinist Leslie Gray. Since then Daniel has released five solo and/or collaborative albums and now we have this mammoth double CD with over two hours of music.
Before tackling these latest offerings however, and by way of introduction to the world of Daniel Crommie, I refer to my previous review: “Considering Daniel Crommie has over 70 releases to his name, I’m sure there will be many reading this review who are oblivious as to his musical output. Across his 35+ year career Daniel has released numerous solo albums, along with collaborative works, such as we have here, and band efforts with DC Collective, Group Du Jour, Echo System and Saturnalia Trio. There may be more…”
Apologies for the repetition and also apologies to Daniel as the Perihelion Chronicle / Journey to the Aphelion files have languished on my hard-drive far longer than they should have…
So what we have here on Perihelion Chronicle / Journey to the Aphelion is an eclectic mix of hypnotic, synthesised and percussive electronica, with Daniel’s organic flute-work weaving in and out of the mix. Musically the albums may conceivably come under the rather broad umbrella of ‘ambient electronica.’ However, Daniel offers a clearer perspective: “electro-acoustic hybrids: psychedelic electro-jazz, ambient folk tunes, organic synthesis and noisy progressive rock with acid jazz overtones.”
The album titles are derived from astronomy and denote the nearest and furthest points in an orbit of a planet, or any gravitationally locked body to another: in 2023 Earth’s perihelion will be on 4th January and will be at aphelion on 6th July – an elliptical orbit around the Sun with a differential of some 3 million miles. This elliptical orbit is of course crucial to our climate, and Daniel’s musical interpretation invariably takes me to the warm and wet climes of an Amazonian rainforest. Triggering this is his choice of sounds and samples, driving bass synths and an abundance of percussion, all of which are employed to create a rich tapestry of organic and rhythmical music – which in turn lend themselves to the more unchartered and remote places on our planet. And it’s very easy to be absorbed into Daniel’s sprawling and mesmerising landscapes, a prime example on Perihelion Chronicle being Chalk Drawings, which features guests Eldon Hardenbrook on fretless bass and Dave Thatcher on bongos and congas.
There’s a commonality within the tracks, and one which runs through the two releases, however I do not wish to paint a one-dimensional picture here. The atmospheric Perihelion Intro, features drone synth and pizzicato strings, which creates a tantalising, if all too brief, opening to album one – concluding with birdsong it neatly segues into rhythmically bouncy The Bird of Paranoid. Throughout Perihelion Chronicle the music is constantly challenging the body, and before you know it the feet are tapping and the head is nodding. Floating effortlessly through the heady mix of synths and percussion is Daniel’s intoxicating flute. Perhaps the only track to break the spell is the concluding one, the twenty minute Cave Entrance. Opening with the sounds of dripping water, Daniel allows himself latitude and here his airy flute dominates much of this cavernous, rather dark and nebulous piece.
I mentioned earlier that these two releases had been with me for some time, much of this I suggest is down to the nature of the music and the length of the albums. Two hours is a sizeable slab to digest in one go, however there’s an obvious split with Perihelion and Aphelion. And although Journey to the Aphelion is very much a continuation, there does seem to be a shift, with an ominously darker, more industrial tone creeping in. Trashland and Cities Within Hidden Cities spring to mind here. However Daniel brings light and shade to the table with the soothing textures of A Forgotten Future and the cinematic and absorbing Requiem for Mariupol. Lovely flute work here…
As with the first album, Journey to the Aphelion concludes with an ‘epic,’ this time around just shy of twenty minutes, but in many respects Almost Never Until Tomorrow shares its DNA with Cave Entrance, and both tracks bookend this release succinctly.
So wrapping things up, Perihelion Chronicle / Journey to the Aphelion is available on double CD and the download versions come with a ‘bonus track’ on each (both offered free via Bandcamp with the CD version). I mention this, as although welcome as extras, both albums have a more natural conclusion with the two longest tracks.
As indicated it has taken some time for this review to come to fruition, however that passage of time has allowed greater capacity to absorb these two releases from Daniel Crommie. So, once the decision was made to NOT to attempt the whole ‘elliptical orbit’ in one go, a greater appreciation of the music was gained. Before concluding and worth mentioning here is that over the years Daniel has honed his recording skills and one thing that is always guaranteed is the clarity of sound, which is paramount when listening to the numerous layers within each track.
01. Perihelion Intro (1:44)
02. The Bird Of Paranoid (5:36)
03. Round And Around (4:49)
04. East Of Deimos (4:44)
05. Undercat (3:25)
06. Lapis Lazuli (7:13)
07. Chalk Drawings (4:50)
08. Xanthos Variations (7:21)
09. Cave Entrance (21:13)
10. This Little Piggy (single edit) (3:14)
Time – 64:09
Journey To The Aphelion
11. Glass Diamond Metropolis (9:43)
12. Trashland (4:01)
13. La Paz (5:42)
14. Seven Of Eleven (5:06)
15. Day 74 (2:00)
16. Requiem For Mariupol (4:17)
17. Cities Within Hidden Cities (6:42)
18. A Forgotten Future (5:25)
19. Almost Never Until Tomorrow (19:34)
20. Hearsay And Heresy (bonus track) (4:31)
Time – 67:01
Total Time – 131:10
Daniel Crommie – Flutes (Concert Flute, Piccolo, Garkleinfloten, Reed Pipes, Bamboo Flute, Synthesisers, Samples, Percussion, Dulcimer, Psaltery)
Dave Thatcher – Congas, Bongos (tracks 3,5 & 18)
Eldon Hardenbrook – Fretless Bass (track 7)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 27th September 2022