Lawrence Russell || Culture Court

The Scent of Light Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra 2008 ssri

2008. The guitarist -- an itinerant mariachi with international connections -- sits in the cell of an abandoned state prison near Santa Fe, bare feet in the rubbish left behind by the riot in 1980 which killed 33 inmates. It's a contradictory image, where the filtered stagelight of the artist's performance milieu has been supplanted by reality, the indifferent light of history. A place of confinement now becomes a sanctuary, a spiritual kiva defined by the unpolluted light of the unseen desert. A concert for ghosts becomes a ritual purification. But what is this xeric staging? The Scent of Light, Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra: the best album by the band since their seminal 1990 platinum release Nouveau Flamenco? Or could it possibly be better?

While The Scent of Light is Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra's first studio album featuring the band since 2004's La Semana, the recording picks up on the spacial sensibility of the recent binaural CD Up Close: the Fritz Files by spreading the sound across the full stereo field to create superb listening depth. While Ottmar has stepped away from the recent minimalism of his 2007 Grammy nominated solo flamenco album One Guitar, you still get that sense of high resolution, beautiful clarity, and a live combo dynamic. It's a layered recording, with the multiple guitars, basses, keyboards & percussion subtly exchanging altitude, rooms, dimensions. The excellent detailing and positioning leaves lots of space for the imagination to roam in, so that you get a big sound, big pictures, big stories.


Ottmar Liebert: The Scent of Light

The Scent Of Light

These ten instrumentals are narratives, ambient responses to specific places Ottmar has visited in recent years. Each track draws a picture, and each picture tells a story. In 02, "Streetlight" you are dropped into a gypsy fandango in Marseille, some Mediterranean evening in 1999. Berets, sideburns, loose belts, bright eyes... a little high on absinthe, Le Fitou or Croix du Sud beer, maybe it's like hanging with Picasso in his apache bohemian days. Or in 05, "Morning Light", you witness the Zen dawn emerge over the rugged mountain landscape of Kham, Tibet, a place Ottmar visited in October '06. It's music as a smell that triggers unexpected memories, a raddling of the mind and body, a friendly abduction. India, 1978... Granada, 1992... each track has a strong atmosphere of time and place, like the journal of an itinerant poet or painter.

So this album is all about light & smell, the valency and texture of the senses in different geographies, locations. Some titles are attached to places, and, although memories often seem to shape the impression, the captured space is often inner space rather than, say, a pleasant evening in Granada or a spectacular dawn in Tibet.

§ Maybe you're 13, and you're in class and Teach is patrolling the aisles as the students write their paragraphs on "Nature". He stops behind you, his shadow falling across your lined page. Your heart beats hard, as you know he's hung-over, his eyes pulled into slits. Probably fighting with the woman he lives with, she who always wears black and sometimes reads poetry at the public library. You know this because you've heard your parents talking about them.

The scent of light, he barks. What the hell is that?

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the scent of light, the scent of fiction

The Scent of Light | Streetlight in Marseille | Candlelight | Three Days Without You | Track 10 | Moonlight in Koln | Tango | Tomb in an Obscure Havana Cemetery | Mars

The technique is outstanding, extending through the flamenco subsets of tangos and rumbas. "Firelight" with its slicing rasqueos and flamenco funk could be Earth, Wind & Fire run through a Spanish laundromat. "Three Days Without You" (mp3) takes you deep into the flamenco cellar, then surfaces in a descending figure of crossing harmonics and a kick-ass Ottmar guitar solo. No cheap 3 minute sugar placebos here, people. Tracks range from over 5 minutes (the shortest one) to almost 12 minutes (the longest). Each piece shifts and evolves, sometimes going through several tempo and rhythm changes i.e. 06 “The River” features Tangos, Rumba and 6/8 rhythms, sometimes building from a haunting solo-guitar performance to the full drive of the band, as in 03, "Silence: No More Longing".

Silence... what is silence? Amnesia? The space between something and nothing? Or is it just a beautiful river beneath a beautiful sky somewhere... say, Utah. Perhaps it's just a conversation between friends, a mutual internalization. 03, "Silence: No More Longing" is certainly all of these, a marvellous piece of lyricism that starts off as an OL flamenco soliloquy (nice slack string drone), then develops as the mellifluous sound that shuts out all evil. This is a long track -- 10:58 -- yet it's no loosey-goosey jam where the players step out of the que to spray noise and subvert the theme. The solos by Jon Gagan (bass) and Stephen Duros (electric guitar) are excellent. Fans of Luna Negra are certainly familiar with JG's fretless lead, with its impeccable phrasing and sweet glissandi. But the track is taken to home sweet home by Stephen Duros playing his solid body Luke Custom Special (Steve Lukather,Toto) which has a nuclear sustain like pure atomic light. Great instrumental, great playing... and no more longing, people.

Track 10

0000. You are just a recording, the voice says. You, and everything you see and feel... just a recording. It was the best technology for the time. It could record 5 senses with a hint of the 6th. Good, but nonetheless imperfect, as there are 9 senses. The encryption involves certain rays emitted by a solar body, and while you may admire your sun, its emissions and photosynthetic articulation is old technology. I am speaking to you from the 9th System. A different sun, a different reality.

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Ottmar says: "The Scent of Light was recorded between Spring of 2005 and Spring 2008. I figured One Guitar was as minimalist as can be, 'Up Close' was the most minimalist one can be with a band (no overdubs, no editing, etc) and it was time to make the image large again. This album has a big sound and reminds me of The Hours between Night + Day which was recorded in Santa Barbara in 1993. I had a lot of fun with this one too."

It's difficult to find fault with this album, either in terms of the compositions or the playing or the mixing design. These are instrumentals that talk. The illusion of space in three dimensions is excellent due to the instrumental layering, in particular the subtle use of the synth for transitional coloring. The percussion is so in the pocket you forget about it, think it's just the invisible audience working the groove. Call and response panning, harmonic merges, choice reverbs and occasional documentary sound inserts (so subtle you think it's a synth... if you think about it at all, as the sonic shape is all music) help propel the drama within these sophisticated Ottmar Liebert compositions.

The band hits the road soon for its summer tour and you can hear what they'll be playing by a direct download of this superb album from ssri »»

Happy trails!

© LR 2008 | Mcourt.

The Scent Of Light was recorded and mixed in Santa Fe by Ottmar Liebert at Spiral Subwave Records International. Remix & mastering by Jon Gagan.

Luna Negra is:

Ottmar Liebert, flamenco guitar
Jon Gagan, fretless bass, synth
Stephen Duros, flamenco & electric guitars
Davo Bryant, percussion

| The Scent Of Light |

01. Up Close: Beginning
02. Streetlight (Marseille, August 1999)
03. Silence: No More Longing (Utah, May 2005)
04. Firelight (Granada, February 1992)
05. Morning Light (Kham, October 2006)
06. The River: Writing In Water (India
07. Candlelight (Xia Rem, February 2008)
08. Three Days Without You (mp3)
09. Moonlight (Koln, April 2007)
10. Up Close: Embrace

direct album download »»

Click player for CC bio:

Ottmar Liebert: flamenco guitar
Jon Gagan: electric fretless bass
Stephen Duros: flamenco & electric guitars
Davo Bryant: percussion

produced by Ottmar Liebert | all compositions by Ottmar Liebert Copyright luna negra music (BMI) admin. by Holland Walk Muse

Cc Audio | Culture Court

Culture Court | © Lawrence Russell | 2008