Hearing some of the new mystically transcendent dreamscapes coming from artists on the Spotted Peccary Music label, I feel as though I have a lot of catching up to do. For the past 30 years, the Oregon based company – billed as North America’s finest independent record label – has been exploring and pushing the boundaries of ambient electronic soundscapes. The fascinating artists on their roster have found inspired paths towards fusing textures of electronic and acoustic music. All are creating fresh sonic concepts that both capture and expand upon the possibilities of this incredible realm.
One of their most captivating, spiritually shapeshifting recent releases is Fire Opal by Massergy, the artist name of Chicago born, Austin based music producer Eric Jensen. He is a self-taught synth programmer and composer of ambient soundscapes who, curiously and fascinatingly, creates, records and mixes his music entirely outdoors and solely at night within a nature preserve, no matter the weather conditions. Knowing this makes the densely textured journey full of floating synth, ambient guitars and pulsating life force rhythms feel even more organic, intense and transformational.
It’s a trippy-cool and deeply soul-transportive experience to lie still and listen to the brief (three and a half minute) opening track “Vinesong,” imagining the starry sky (maybe even a shooting star or two) and the bustling of nocturnal birds and critters milling about as you listen to Massergy’s stark acoustic guitar before a haunting and hypnotic atmospheric caress.
Or to let the possibilities of the endless universe we see a glimpse of in our version of Massergy’s “studio” fuel our fantasies as “The Shepherdess” moves from one delicate energy field to another. That ten and a half minute piece alternates moods and movements via delicately percussive synth, angelic atmospheric washes, thoughtful acoustic guitar string modulations. Another track seemingly tailor made for star, full moon and planet tripping on a clear, calm night is “Lunar Cinema,” an eloquent, deeply meditative “liquid jazz” immersion (with a drifting trumpet element) that ponders the deeper secrets of the universe and them mystery we’re caught in far beyond what eyes can see and ears can hear.
The core of Fire Opal are two 17 minute plus pieces (“Cold White Smoke” and the title track) that ponder these emotional and spiritual tethers even further as we rise beyond that outdoor playground and float off to dreamy realms where we can ponder these things as if joined on an endless ethereal loop. With these gentle yet often dramatic and sweeping pieces, in addition to the gently graceful, acoustic guitar reflection “El Viajero” (whose title implies astral travel), Massergy invites us to understand the literal and metaphorical meanings of the fire opal of Mexican folklore that inspired him.
Its metaphysical properties are related to loyalty and trust. Because of its interplay of colors and light – which the artist fashions into his thoughtful music movements – it is considered a stone of magical powers. The crystal is known to improve sight, protect from contagious diseases and ease the pain that originates from grief and sorrow. Further, the fire opal symbolizes magic, love, progress, hope, happiness and truth. The stone is also known to protect people from danger and provide safe passage through ceremonial journeys. Somehow, magically, mystically, as if connecting with other planes of existence while the creative forces take shape amidst the glories of planet earth, Massergy finds a way to embody all of these qualities through the medium of ambient soundscaping.
As listeners, we’re enchanted by the mystery of how such works are created, but as curious human beings, we always want to pinpoint an emotional source. For the artist, everything – including the moniker Massergy – traces back to the unfinished work of his brother Adam, a young electronic musician who was killed in a car accident in 2002. At the time, Eric Jensen had no musical background or training, but his desire to expand upon his sibling’s aesthetic and create a legacy for him led the developing musician to spend 10 years creating his own electronic ambient style based on dark bass tones, fanciful textures and spirited improvisation.
Even if you’re not somewhere where you can lay out under the night sky and listen, you’ll find endless pleasure, relaxation and intellectual provocation soaking in the offbeat majesty of Fire Opal and discovering new ways to think and dream.