Ned Milligan & John Atkinson ~ Call Me When You Can

Sometimes a review is this simple:  if you enjoy chimes, tape loops and light field recordings, you’ll love this CD.  Ned Milligan (who is also the founder of the Florabelle label) has been specializing in chimes for years, working from “a rural porch in Maine.”  One imagines him testing the resonance of various tubes, hanging them from the gutter, waiting for a breeze.  But Call Me When You Can is also a story of friendship, as Milligan sent his recordings back and forth to his long-time friend, the well-traveled musician John Atkinson.  John gleaned new nuances in the raw recordings, and proceeded to add static effects, reverberations and gentle instrumentation.

A friendship is more than the sum of its parts: not just “I” and “you.”  Together, these friends have constructed a set of deep beauty, born of mutual respect.  Such calm music is a welcome balm in these troubled days.  The title Call Me When You Can takes on new meaning when most travel is restricted, even within towns.  Even the words “How are you?” are fraught with concern.  Normally we’d be building memories with our friends ~ going out or staying in, but more importantly, doing it together.  To echo the newly common phrase, Ned and John have figured out a way to build memories while alone together.  This seems a unique gift until we recall prior generations.

The Book Edition contains repurposed vintage tomes, along with “prints, library cards, stamps, glass slides and book-marks,” ephemera from a distant past.  Back then, people somehow managed to stay in touch, even without cellphones and the internet!  Letters were written, gifts mailed, long-distance phone calls made ~ often late at night for cheaper rates.  In the amusingly-titled “Plunko,” one of the album’s most direct pieces, footsteps are suggested at the start, a teletype machine at the end.  In other tracks, the static recalls “intermittent phone reception.”  We have a lot to learn from our elders about durability and perseverance, which is why it’s so important to preserve their wisdom.

The combination of birds, chimes and improvisations produces a feeling of timelessness, akin to a daydream.  Past, present and future swirl together, memories and hopes intertwined.  Yet even when we don’t know what day it is and the world seems to slow on its axis, some things manage to endure: beauty, friendship, comfort.  Milligan and Atkinson leave us with these buoyant reminders. This is a good day to phone a friend.  (Richard Allen)

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