Done right, tribal ambient music twists its way deep into your head to become something of a mass for your primal mind, a harmonic key that opens a path to your inner pre-Dawn-of-Man self and connects, in part, on a purely instinctual level. Equinox, the new release from Shane Morris, is tribal ambient done right–although the tribal tag may not be entirely accurate. It’s not all drums, didges and cave-wall echoes–although you do get a fair amount of that. Rather, it’s a neatly paced meditation down into yourself, textbook tribal where it needs to be, hushed, washed, vast and melodic where it should be, and pulled together in a way that ensures Morris’ path makes complete sense and a complete journey. The four pieces here run just under 45 minutes, but thanks to Morris’ pacing, the time feels wonderfully stretched while you’re in the middle of it all.
The title track rises up in shimmering pads, hints of nature sounds easing the listener into the journey ahead. Then, coming up from under, the driving, compelling heartbeat at the center of Equinox–drums. This really is the spiritual center of the piece; Morris’ drumming ushers the listener into the ritual of Equinox with the frenetic energy of a soul-felt dance. (Here I get echoes of Roach’s Trance Spirit.) Even as it rises in intensity, the background pads stay low-key, silken and fluid. Voices drift in as you begin to drift out. Morris lets it cool off into quietness, then arcs into “Twilight Returns” with mildly dissonant flute sounds, ringing chimes and softer, brushed percussion. This is where he begins to spread out his landscape, with the help of guitar from Dan Minoza (who’s also tucked into the first track). There’s still an energy here, but it’s lighter–sky versus ground. The density grows, a syncopated flurry of sounds with an anticipatory edge to them, and the ride just keeps getting better. Then you’re headed back down as Morris moves into “The Earth Speaks.” He largely gives over the lead to AK Blake, whose throaty, droning didgeridoo work is like a spiral staircase directly into your subconscious. This track is your invitation to the Lower World, hissing, hypnotic and a little claustrophobic, filled with tectonic rumbling. Morris closes out with “By The Fire’s Light,” where the drums return to reinvigorate you after your time below. Morris hangs gorgeous pauses in spots, breath-catching moments before another round of drumming takes hold. Underneath it all, he lays down thick, somewhat shadowy swirls of sound as counterpoint. The track fades perfectly toward its end, the ritual complete.
This is must-listen for tribal ambient fans. It’s become a favorite of mine among my tribal listens. I’ve kept Equinox looping for literally hours at times while writing this review, and its spell remains potent and affecting. An excellent outing from Shane Morris.