Andrew Danso is an independent musician who dabbles with ambient and progressive soundscapes. ‘f i n d’ is his second solo release (third overall, including an album credited to Tera), and is more experimental than his previous works. Those interested in prog rock or ambient music will find much to enjoy with ‘f i n d’, although perhaps those likely to enjoy it the most are those who enjoy a solid fusion of the two subgenres.
Beginning with an almost world music meets ambient style, ‘Go Again’ has a main thrust which derives from a percussive beat. This isn’t especially interesting on its own, but when combined with Alan Danso’s relatively simple but bendy bassline, it has plenty of appeal. Over this musical loop, Andrew Danso’s lead vocal sounds a little wistful. There’s something about this number which lends itself to The Pineapple Thief; and although this would likely be considered filler material for those guys, it provides a decent opener into Andrew Danso’s 2011 work, setting the general mood effectively.
‘Ear To Earth’ opts for something even more new age, as electronic loops mesh with the sounds of rainfall and the occasional interruption of a city traffic and sirens. Danso puts his own mark on the piece by way of some seemingly unrelated guitar notes, which drift in and out as they please. While his playing never forms the structure of an actual tune, his jazzy tones are marvellous. Realising that a similar follow up could potentially allow things to sag, Danso follows this with something in an absolute contrast. The ringing chords which begin ‘Walk Walk Sunshine’ – a more standard pop/rock number – are similar to The Police’s ‘Everything She Does Is Magic’ (pure coincidence, surely); after a brief intro, Danso’s guest musicians get more to do here than anywhere else. The whole band launch into what is essentially a fairly ordinary rock tune, over which the vocals are slightly distorted. The alternative rock grooves stick out half a mile here among the ambient stuff, but you have to give Danso credit for mixing it up just a little.
‘Electronic ABC’ is perhaps the releases most promising number. It begins with Morse-style rhythmic clicking, augmented by a bottom end pulse. As the layers build and Danso’s guitar work sits over the top, it all becomes more than reminiscent of early Porcupine Tree. Rather more specifically, it sounds like a movement from that band’s epic ‘Voyage 34’. Promising, yes, but it had so much more potential than it actually achieves… A big downside is its length. By the time the pieces fit together and Danso really starts to get a groove going, it’s almost over; ambient pieces in this vein certainly benefit from extended grooves, and it would have been so easy for this track to fall in line. ‘Boy, Man, 11’ is one of ‘f i n d’s longer pieces, and as with most of the release, it’s primary concern is that of atmosphere as opposed to a being a obvious song of any kind. Danso’s guitar weaves patterns full of echo and the vocals are hushed. It’s mellow, somewhat trippy mood puts it in a similar frame to Devin Townsend’s ‘Ghost’, though perhaps reimagined by The Pinapple Thief’s Bruce Soord. It manages to sustain its four minutes well, by introducing various drum loops, though these never reach any kind of climax.
Bringing back a few of the jazzy tones from ‘Ear To Earth’ and mashing them with a constant jangle, ‘Rain, Go’ is another of the releases most upbeat numbers. Drummer Ben Simpson plays a solid backbeat, while Danso’s vocal has been heavily filtered. Once again, the influence from early Porcupine Tree is unavoidable, but here the mood is very much one inspired by Steven Wilson’s ‘On The Sunday of Life’ bedroom experiments, as opposed to the rather more lavish tones of ‘Voyage 34’ or ‘Up The Downstair’. Like ‘Walk Walk Sunshine’, ‘Liar MD’ is a little out of place with the overall sound of the disc with its louder guitars, but whereas ‘Sunshine’ has a hint of something song based, ‘Liar MD’ never really gets off the ground… Although the multi-layered vocals provide some interest, even these aren’t among the album’s better selection of voices. Much more effective is the way a selection of multi-layered voices gets used on the title track. Wordless vocals are set against each other to create something not too far removed from a chant, while the guitar harmonics create an ambient drone. Listening to it, Danso has obviously been inspired by Devin Townsend here, and generally that’s a good thing.
When Danso’s arrangements strike the right balance between progressive sounds and atmosphere, the disc is very enjoyable. There are times when those atmospheres get hampered by meandering (as with ‘Pour’, a two minute guitar loop and some rain sounds) but given the particular musical niche, that’s to be expected. Granted, lots of Danso’s musical soundscapes are indebted to Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief in some way, but that’s not to say ‘f i n d’ is any the weaker for it – quite the opposite. When used effectively, homage can work very well indeed.