Author Topic: My review of "Pathways" CD by Chad Kettering  (Read 2128 times)


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My review of "Pathways" CD by Chad Kettering
« on: August 11, 2015, 08:54:13 AM »

Chad Kettering "Pathways" CD

Five years have passed since the extraordinary album "Voices Of The Ancients", now we have here, for a long time awaited, third album by this Texan ambient soundsculptor and mastering engineer Chad Kettering. Self-released "Pathways" album is out since the end of May, 2015. I must admit the whole presentation of this album was made on top level, which featured even some preview trailers, presented in different countdown stages, gradually revealing the album's title plus a video documentary of the new album. Quite unusual, although I remember that Chad Kettering posted a presentation video few years back about the inspiration and creative process of making his previous album. Anyway, everything was handled and polished in a truly exceptional quality. And that's the case for the visual part of the album too, when renowned Polish photographer and graphic virtuoso Michal Karcz got the invitation to participate on "Pathways". So it's quite obvious that 6-panel digipak packaging delivers immediately a really spellbinding visual experience. Bravo, Chad, bravo, Michal!!!

A track entitled "Openings" unsurprisedly unfolds this intensely enrapturing journey. The listener is straightly invited to take a hauntingly crescendoed and strongly orchestral, 6-plus minutes long ride full of adventurously breathtaking transitions. Electronics, synthetics, live acoustics, choirs... all meticulously blended into one utterly entertaining compound. An avalanche of cinematic drama awaits here, join in and follow Chad Kettering's "Pathways"!!! "Finding My Way" follows the rapid route with its swirlingly traveling sounds, again moving through various uplifting elevations. Some female voice samples join the amalgamate of ecstatic electronic orchestra. "The Fire Within", with 8 minutes the longest track on "Pathways", delves deeper into wistful terrains highlighted by the weeping cello by Chad Kettering's wife Kari (from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra). But soon the cello strings metamorphose into rawer drama, reinforced my ethereal female chants of Francesca Genco and additional orchestral explosions. Towards the end the composition gorgeously evanesces on the wings of poetic tranquility, embracingly panoramic, and bridged with organic subtleties. "Free Falling" carefully fuses serenely translucent field recordings with warmly alluring gentle tribal downtempos and ephemeral chant/voice fragments, again sinuously floating, meandering, undulating and engrossing. A large dose of sonic elixir is delivered here!!! "Closer To You" starts with intangible cacophony of sounds, before smoothly converting into dramatic scenario, coalescing orchestral cascades of powerfully climaxing cinematic layers, expressive chants and poignant cello with jaw-droppingly raw surface. Rather shorter composition, but strongly efficient!!! "Provenance" moves into quieter terrains, soothingly sweeping expanses enhanced with velvety tinkles, but during the second third the center stage lushly progresses and transforms into spectacularly panoramic, spine-tingling ancient surges augmented by Native American flute, awaking the magical beauty and monumental grace of "Voices of the Ancients". Wow, certainly one of the pinnacles on "Pathways"!!! "The Infinity Mirror" is driven by powerfully embracing vocals of Francesca Genco, remote dramatic waves slowly rise and fall, while little gamelan-like fragrances are clandestinely thrown in and pleasantly coexist with female voice mastery. But the beauty of Francesca's voice is fully unveiled on the next piece, "Vanished Dreams", where it shines along with piano serenity, Kari's utterly yearning cello and ear-tickling tinkles. Deeply evocative coastal sounds bring the composition into its eternal silence and leave the listener in a true sonic paradise eagerly wondering what will follow. "Apotheosis" just starts where its predecessor left, but soon distinctive Morse code and transmission sounds sneak in and powerfully majestic cascades collide with transient cello parts. Grandiosely pinnacling tides reach the climax and tranquilly decrease into magnificently breathtaking amplitudes exquisitely counterpointed with thrillingly enveloping moments of stillness. Glorifying soundtrack-infused ambience at its most awe-inspiring!!! But the grand finale is just about to blossom, when Chad Kettering rises his trumpet and resurrects this instrument after a 20-year hiatus. To those unfamiliar, Chad Kettering used to be a professional classical trumpet player, who performed with various orchestras and small ensembles throughout Texas and Colorado. And the magic of this instrument is fully unfolded on the closing track, "Standing Upon The Edge", when coupled with mesmerizingly droning blankets. This calm before the storm is spellbindingly immersing!!! The tension slowly rises, expands, outbursts and then calmly disappears through the nocturnal quietness. Only 3 and half minutes? More please!!! No, okay, next time...

Wow!!! No questions here, the more primordial Southwest desert feel was this time proficiently shifted into a brand new level, precisely merging older signatures with newly challenging adventures, showcasing the huge creative potential of this, in Dallas based, artist. But I also must admit that in some glimpses the music of Chad Kettering is slightly ruined by strong influences of his musical guides, thus his own signatures are a bit sacrificed. That's my only complain, but I am mentioning this, because I know that Chad Kettering can be as much triumphant with his own sole insignias, I am 100 % sure about that since his previous two albums "Into The Infinite" and "Voices Of The Ancients", released back in 2008 and 2010. These "Pathways" are fully packed with perfection, it's an all-inclusive masterwork with top-notch sound quality that immediately deserves to be explored, experienced and celebrated. It's a piece of art masterfully connecting the visual and aural part. For example, you can check out the video documentary and you will get an idea of what I am writing about. Bravo, Chad, Kari, Francesca and Michal!!! The first two big steps were already made with previous two albums, now with "Pathways", Chad Kettering achieves the pedestal of grandiosely epic cinematic soundsculpting. I think that's what he was always fascinated about!!! "Pathways" CD is an absolute must-have release, just like "Voices Of The Ancients" and "Into The Infinite"!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 09, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)