Brian Ellis & Brian Granger ‘At Dusk’ LP/CD (El Paraiso) 5/5

brian-ellis-brian-grainger“At Dusk” is a collaboration between Southern Californian native Brian Ellis and South Carolina ambient producer Brian Granger – and it’s a little gem of an album. It’s trippy, ambient and psychedelic sound takes the listener back to the heyday of an early 70’s analogue, vintage warmth and spaced-out loveliness. The two offbeat musicians tune in, zone out, and with the use of acoustic guitars, percussion, flutes and vintage synths create their own unique world of sound that drifts effortlessly into the listener’s ears. The resulting set of tunes are of a ghostly, meditative nature, mellow and mysterious.

“At Dusk” is a tale of two Brians: Brian Ellis is a producer and multi-musician from Escondido. He plays guitar in the prog-rock band Astra, saxophone for Psicomagia and keys in the excellent, ever-adventuring Brian Ellis Group. Brian Granger is a musician, producer and record label owner from Columbia, South Carolina. His massive output over the years has included his work as Milieu and Coppice Halifax. Their collaboration here is a kaleidoscopic work of rare intensity. At times serene and life-affirming, at other times dark and edgy, the two Brians share an interconnected, at times intergalactic understanding. Their music sounds rooted in the British folk scene of the late ’60s, with the alluring textures and colours of early 70’s psychedelia thrown in for good measure. I would hasten to add though, there is nothing hastily thrown together about this album. “At Dusk” is a carefully crafted work of art, one that stirs the soul with a spiritual like grace.

As a guitarist myself, I can really appreciate the sound and feel of this recording. Lovely open tunings truly radiate and glow. The synth sounds are beautifully played and thoughtfully mixed with other instruments to give an earthy, lush sound that personifies everything good about a musical (not so?) bygone era. I remember well (albeit around 25 years ago), playing around with my Fostex 4 Track Tape Recorder- attempting to stretch the boundaries by bouncing tracks down and trying out new looped sounds from a reel to reel echo machine. Double tracking guitar parts, inventing brave new sounds in my head that my skill as a guitarist could never quite achieve. This is the album I would have loved to have made. There’s a timelessness to this music, and although it may sound easy to achieve, it’s not. Many have tried similar projects, but this one stands alone as a majestic masterpiece.

There are 10 tracks on the album, though to separate them out would be the wrong thing to do. Each tune has its own ambience but together the pieces flow like a river, sometimes slow and lazy, sometimes crashing with carefree abandon. From the gentile opening of the title track, through to the ethereal sounds of the closing track “Night Beach”, we are taken on a journey through time and space, evoking thoughts of a rural American long-lost landscape, with its less travelled byroads leading to lost love and abstract acquaintances along the way. This is undoubtedly one of those albums that shifts in mood depending on the circumstances it is played in. When all is said and done, “At Dusk” is a gorgeous recording that needs to be listened to with an open mind and an open heart. Let the music in and allow the sumptuous sounds to speak for themselves.

Mike Gates