Have you heard these songs before, in a different form, perhaps in a fever dream? It’s quite possible, as Patterns was once Gaya, a limited edition CD-R on Fluid Audio, now shuffled, remastered and revised on Hush Hush Records. While the artists state that the music has found its final form, they may later change their minds. The new album prompts discussion on whether music is ever in a final, definitive form, or simply waiting for a new form to inhabit.
Alex Smalley is no stranger to collaboration. As half of Olan Mill and Pausal, he’s remained open to the exponential rush of ideas that such partnerships can produce. Pianist and improviser Lucia Adam was sent swirling textures and backdrops, and filled in the lines with melodies of her own. Fittingly, the cover art is a collection of patterns, carefully arranged, some interacting while others inhabit the balanced outskirts. “As Above, So Below” introduces chimes, producing a spiritual timbre that reflects the origins of the Hermetic phrase, that suggests our entire existence is part of a large fractal pattern. “Wave Shapes” and “Growing Layers” delve into the idea, producing a sense of wonder not only at the art of creation, but at the fact that creation never ends, and that even the universe continues to expand. In the latter track, Adam’s notes dot Smalley’s chords to create a smudged effect in which the specific seems more general and the general more specific.
The largest bloom occurs on “Violet Fields,” which sounds like a vista of green shifting to purple as the morning sun opens the blossoms. The song is a metaphor for intellectual, musical and spiritual awakening: to paraphrase a popular term, a third ear. The closing “Eclipse” suggests new tones of refraction, the altered perception that arrives in altered light. Smalley and Adam held their album up to the sun, considered it from all angles and produced a new work from the same raw material; the same might be done with an approach, an attitude, a life. (Richard Allen)