A work of extraordinary depth and rich, intricate texturing of spacey ambient dreamscapes and soul-stirring earthy tones, The Silence of Grace is a meditative reflection and celebration of the natural beauty and wonders of the Pacific Northwest combining the expansive talents of ambient electronic artist Deborah Martin and oboe and English horn master Jill Haley. The eight track recording marks Deborah’s 30th Anniversary with Spotted Peccary Music – an inspiring run that began with her contribution to the label’s Tracks in Time compilation – and welcomes Jill into the fold after a decade of releases showcasing the majesty of America’s National Parks.
As stated on her dedicated artist page, Deborah’s passion is to visualize and create music that takes each listener on a journey through time and space. “I simply close my eyes and imagine what it would have been like to exist in another time, another place, and the music comes.” Her well-established musical aesthetic – and longstanding desire to combine live orchestral instrument recordings with electronics - perfectly complements that of Jill, whose immersion into the landscapes and music of Glacier, Zion, Bryce, Mesa Verde et al has inspired transcendent, landscape and natural element inspired works showcasing the sweeping majesty, fragile ecosystems and intricate details of these sacred lands.
As I wrote in my review of Jill’s The Winds of Badlands, “While Jill brings echoes of all those glorious paths of the past, her soul-conscious texturing of fresh, poetic whimsy and reflective grace takes us forward into this era where the battle for the soul of these places, and the earth itself, is a sociopolitical reality.”
Though thematically rooted in a passionate expression of love for the exquisite greenery and natural water movement of the Pacific Northwest – one of the regions Jill had yet to pay homage to in her solo career - The Silence of Grace is one of those lushly produced, expansive and atmospheric “wall of sound” works that can be appreciated by the mind and spirit for its sweet transportive dreaminess as a single through line over its nearly 50 minutes, the breaks between pieces – and the colorful titles given to each composition – helps the listener focus on the imagery that inspired Deborah and Jill to interweave their unique array of individual sounds.
Rather than build a specific narrative or story arc, the titles serve as impressionistic locales to set the scenes for each musical adventure/excursion. Intriguingly, the lone exception to this is the title track which through its melodic and harmonic shifts from soaring highs to murky lows, sets a mood that inspires the listener to be the silent one contemplating nature and – if so inclined – the divine grace that made such sweeping and enduring beauty possible for humans to experience.
Jill’s Southwestern inspired works have certainly found her expounding on the ancient, mystical powers of Native American lands, and unique tones of her instruments alternately take us soaring and keep us grounded as Deborah’s mystical electronic energies surround us on a tour of “Indian Heaven.” As with so many of the tracks on The Silence of Grace, they quite literally lay the
groundwork and we can use our imaginations to engage with the enduring spirits of the ancestors who might inhabit such a place.
The next two tracks offer hypnotic entry points to the Pacific Northwest region’s deep and luxuriant forests, which aggregately form the Pacific temperate rainforests ecoregion, the largest on the planet as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. The playful chimes and lyrical oboe animating the mysterious moods of “Verdant Sanctuary” pay collective homage to the surreal shades of green, the ongoing (if silent) activity of nature working its free-flowing magic and the reverence it inspires the moment you walk into its doors and look up at the leafy branch created “steeples.” With its subtle harmonic mood swings, “The Stillness of Forest Bathing” immerses us even further from our day to day realities into the wild gathering of trees where rain, streams and waterfalls have the opportunity to refresh, restore and re-energize our souls weary from the battles outside.
Far from the red rocks of some of the other geographic spots Jill has taken her fans before, her dreamy sounds flow naturally with the water vibes that inhabit, narratively and musically, the final four tracks of the album. First, she and Deborah guide our gentle and graceful journey to experience the baptism/rebirth available in the forest’s “Fountains.” Then Deborah engages in her
trademark deep space ambience energy on a haunting exploration of all the present elements on “Earth Stone Water Sky,” which converge slowly with occasional chimes, a softly swaying oboe melody and breathy gusts of wind.
Perhaps the most percussive piece on The Silence of Grace is the next fusion of natural elements, “From Fire to Water,” which begins with chaotic, otherworldly drone sounds and an exotic rhythm pattern that lay a quick-bubbling foundation for some of Jill’s most powerful and melodic oboe expressions. Not surprisingly, as the fire recedes and water takes over, the piece mellows out and flows into something like a dream state. Which naturally leads us the duo to their (and our) final destination, a place where “Water Flows of Clouds and Thunder,” and peaceful dreamy and optimistic streams of life emerge after nature does its scariest work with colliding clouds and intense, ominous rainstorms.
Listen to The Silence of Grace here: The Silence of Grace - Album by Deborah Martin, Jill Haley | Spotify