David Pritchard – Unassigned Territory
by J. Barrett
A simple phrase comes forward, a shimmering string climbing the stairs. Many others join it: the theme is strengthened, with little variations. The strings keep multiplying, with a healthy echo; an airy whoosh of sound, with metallic snap. It’s synthesizer, harpsichord and low pounding bass – it’s one guitar and countless overdubs. It’s “Driven”, and it is; it’s also lush and delicate, and makes you listen on.
The last track was just Pritchard; on most, other guitars are added. ” Language Instinct” has four, and compared to “Driven”, it’s positively austere. There’s also the voice of Teri DeSario (she had a hit with K.C., but we can forgive.) The libretto, by Teri, is a series of words in many languages, sung high and warm. It’s more sound than lyric, the vocal equivalent of Dave’s repeated phrases. From this comes an art song: the music a rainfall, the voice soaring above. The mood is strong, and prevails over mere words.
This is minimalism, in the purest, best sense of the word. Pritchard takes a little theme, a few seconds at most, and varies it slowly ’til it becomes the next theme. All the guitarists have a similar tone, so it’s hard to tell who does what. Usually one guitar pulses the low notes, others weave counterlines, and Dave carries the weight. The progression is slow; the notes are fast. More so on “The World in the Evening”: from a placid start (a guitar to each speaker) a three-note riff turns thick and wonderfully vital. The rhythmic phrases bounce from one guitar to the next, a tapestry flowing from a few simple lines. In time peace returns, but too soon for me.
Teri returns on “Brazil”; you hear her smile as she drifts sweet wordless phrases. At times the echoing strings overpower her, but she rises above: she’s a flute at times, and also a violin. “Just One Look (not the pop tune!) is the closest thing to a ballad. High, banjo like notes frame a slow dance coming from a dulcimer, or maybe the harpsichord returns. “Trophic Cascade” has racing tempo and high plucks; “Different Color” starts sour and drifts, the chords sweetening at times. It’s like the occasional sunbeam peeking through the clouds. Like ripples in a pond, the patterns here are lovely, and remain long after the initial splash is gone.
Rating: *** ¾. Will you like this? That depends on your attention span. Pritchard’s style hinges on heavy repetition, and a lot of his themes tend to sound alike. I would have liked more variety, but that’s not a major flaw. Some may prefer small doses, a song here and a few later. Fans of New Age or “nature music” should enjoy this: when I hear it, I feel breezes and smell burning leaves. This gentle vigor is recommended to anyone who likes wistful guitar – and lots of it.
Songs: Driven; The Language Instinct; Stars; The World in the Evening; Brazil; Just One Look; Unassigned Territory; Trophic Cascade; Maps of a Different Color; She Dreams; Pentimento; China.
Musicians: David Pritchard, Joseph Jewell, Dale Turner, Jack Majdecki (acoustic guitars); Teri DeSario (vocals).
For more info, contact: Zebra Accoustic