Ezra Feinberg‘s Recumbent Speech is a brilliant instrumental record that charts its own course. The mostly-peaceful songs dance around the edges of folk, ambient, deep listening, new age, neo-classical, post-rock, and prog without putting both feet firmly anywhere.
Feinberg’s strength is his ability to meld unique concepts into a single unified vision. Opener “Acquainted with the Night” starts with a rolling, pastoral, fingerpicked acoustic guitar pattern that turns into the ostinato base of the track. Feinberg melds this vision with that of spacey, exploratory, new age synth work that moves the work into a different lane. Bass comes in and grounds the piece, subtly moving it once again. The overall piece is hypnotic and zen-like, but with much more motion than a traditional ambient track would have.
“Letter to My Mind” continues this theme of melded visions, beginning with an ambient keys intro that morphs with the inclusion of another lovely acoustic line, delicate electric guitar leads, and tasteful percussion. The lay-back-in-the-pocket jazz drumming (from Tortoise’s John McEntire) accompanies thrumming bass guitar, which makes this track feel more like a post-rock track than the previous deep-listening track. “Palms Up” introduces a playful marimba into the mix as the ostinato base, giving the work a mid-century modernist feel before expanding into another cheerful, bass-heavy post-rock jam about 1:30 in. “A Spider Painted Over” continues the marimba inclusion, and the rhythmic patterns move toward the jazzy and syncopated. The core ideas of melodico-rhythmic base to build on continue, but this variation has a much more expansive view. The jazzy guitar leads further the effect.
The nine-minute “Ovation” is both the outlier and the soul of the record. It includes everything that has come before it (except the marimba), but puts it in the service of another vibe: mystic new age. The hazy, flute-laden, choral “ahs” approach gives the piece a connection to Andreas Vollenweider’s exceptional new age work. Around 6 minutes in, a surging, skybound electric guitar gives this a distinctly British-prog vibe to go along with new age mystic tones. “Ovation” is a bit outside the tonal focus of the record, but the approach is thoroughly consistent with the rest of the tunes.
The titular closer is also 9 minutes long, and it is an absolutely beautiful piece. It begins as a delicate electronic dance and slowly builds to a beachy, tropical vibe complete with dreamy pedal steel. This piece, with its staccato electronic heartbeat, is less organic than the other pieces–the acoustic guitar is mostly color here, instead of central. But regardless, it’s a peaceful, carefully considered track that puts Feinberg’s new age / deep listening / ambient / folk melange on full display. There’s not a bad track on the six-song collection; each of the pieces tell a part of the whole and add to the overall experience. Feinberg’s Recumbent Speech is a major achievement–it’s a strong record that clearly marks his voice. Highly recommended.