Ed Carlsen ~ Morning Hour

Morning Hour is a fun and fascinating album.  Multi-instrumentalist Ed Carlsen uses the form of modern composition, yet nearly every track blooms into beat-driven, electronic timbres.  Then just as one is prepared to call it an electronic set, the piano makes one think again.  This chimeric form, coupled with an extremely positive vibe, makes for a smile-inducing play.

The vibe is intentional.  Carlsen admits that he has faced anxiety and loss in the last couple years, but made a choice “to leave behind the darkness for a new light.”  His new sound is ebullient.  A swift introductory track jumps into the rapid “Whisper,” where guitar, keyboards and drums are joined by happy “oohs” to produce the euphoric effect shared by trance music.  It’s happy in the best way: a personal celebration accompanied by an invitation.  Lead single “Words” shows the artist at work, missing only the images of the Dobry Ton string quartet.  The track gets busier and busier as it progresses, the artist’s hands moving faster and faster on the piano.  Yet despite the speed, the track (and video) yield a sense of peace ~ the artist drinking his morning coffee or tea, looking out across the balcony of the morning.

For a couple minutes, it’s quiet again.  Shorn static meets ivory, inviting contemplation.  “Home” is exactly what it sounds like: a soft start, easing into the day.  The string quartet offers warmth, like a shawl around the shoulders.  At the halfway mark, the track makes the turn to joy, exploding like a vacation day.  Dynamic drums lie atop wind-churned synths.  As Carlsen implies, we choose what to make of our days.  The late-track string resurgence adds a layer of depth, a reminder that the choice seems easy on paper, but is often difficult in the psyche.  Then the soothing triptych of “Interlude,” “Entangled” and “Hands, Heart,” during which the electronic beats take some leftover soufflé and disengage, returning only (as expected) for the encore.

As the title implies, Morning Hour is a great wake-up album, an encouragement to feed the pet, water the plants, eat a nutritious breakfast and get out there and engage with the world.  Carlsen is the cheerleader we need, his music as energizing as that first caffeinated drink.  (Richard Allen)

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