US born and based composer and multi-instrumentalist Kevin BARTLETT has been involved in the music scene since the early ‘70s, playing in bar bands, working with lighting design and stage management as well as retailing. In the early 80's he set up his own company, Aural Gratification, specializing in supplying music for businesses, ranging from ambient atmospheres to musical scores. Bartlett's general discography counts more than 20 productions, but from what I understand his 2003 release "Near-Life Experience" is his debut album as a creative solo artist. The album was met with much critical acclaim upon its release, in particular amongst people fond of relaxing, electronic music. Quite a few people have been awaiting a follow-up to this fine release, and in 2008 it was issued, named "Glow in the Dark".
Kevin Bartlett - 2003 - "Near-Life Experience"
(73:01, 'Aural Gratification')
1. Gayatri 10:33
2. Tripping Over Torn 7:26
3. Miserere Mei 8:33
4. Sockdolager 8:12
5. Across My Heart 8:07
6. The Best Laid Mice 7:22
7. Outer Marker 7:26
8. Lighting Is Everything 5:09
9. Standards and Practices 7:53
10. I Miss You So Much 2:20
Kevin Bartlett – all instruments
The musical contents of this creation will probably be identified as new age music by most listeners. It's a fair description of the contents, as synthesizer-dominated compositions exploring slow-moving atmospheric melodies and themes is the name of the game here. Then again, although there's nothing fundamental wrong in labeling this production with that particular nomenclature, there's much more to this album than a generic CD containing relaxing, superficial synth explorations. First and foremost: There's nothing cheap about this release. High quality instruments are utilized throughout, the production is superb, and all the tunes here are compositions made with care, affection and precision, unlike the plethora of CDs containing "relaxing moods" and similar productions usually marketed towards people as new age music. When listening closely and with concentration to this recording, you'll discover that these sonic explorations are complex creations, with new details and nuances to be discovered each time the album is played. Multiple melody layers for starters: I counted as many as six different imbrications at some point – and I may have missed some too. These aren't always harmonic layers either and although there are a fair number of instances where several layers of melodies replicate each other to produce rich, majestic segments, there are just as many instances of slight differences between them, creating subtle disharmonies and dissonances. There are also quite a few examples of the various layers each containing part of the main melody of course, with the central melodic theme being a result of fragmented inputs from several different layers and even instruments. Careful use of acoustic guitar licks, atmospheric guitar soloing and bass guitar adds an element of rock music to individual segments in most of the compositions, adding a tinge of progressive rock in these performances. Further nuances are added by regular and electronic drums and percussion, and multiple layers of electronic noises, sampled voices and vocal effects see to it that the end result here is a creation deviating much from the norm, while still essentially being a form of music that can be given the description new age music. And Bartlett's compositions share one trait with most music in this genre – they are relaxing. In fact, he's too darn good at making the music so. Being tired and immersing myself in his music put me to sleep - not because it's boring or tedious but because it's so fantastically hypnotizing: you get dragged into the music and suddenly you're gone, taken through a musical portal transporting you into another dimension, metaphysically speaking.
As relaxing and soothing music, this creation is close to perfection, while as music to immerse oneself in, the length and soothing effect is somewhat of a drawback. If you need high quality New Age music this creation is a good one, especially if you like progressive rock and enjoy complex, detailed compositions. The quality of the production and mix should make this one interesting to sound aficionados as well, as this is one of the better produced releases I've encountered in a while now.
Kevin Bartlett - 2008 - "Glow in the Dark"
(76:56, ‘Aural Gratification’)
1. Nothing Really 5:3 2
2. The Sorrow 9:06
3. God's Little Do-Over 8:24
4. Chauncey Saucer Survives 2012 9:16
5. Moon v Moon 11:58
6. Stethoscope 8:16
7. Resuscitation 2:21
8. Glow in the Dark 7:55
9. Something Probably 6:58
10. Next Life 7:10
Kevin Bartlett – all instruments
Kisrti Gohlson – vocals
As with his first solo album, "Glow in the Dark" is a release that will cater to the tastes of an audience fond of relaxing music in general and the new age variant in particular. During the 5 years that have followed his first solo recording, Bartlett has expanded his sonic palette quite a bit, though, so although comparable with his first creation this sophomore effort contains a wider array of textures, nuances, sounds and styles. Keyboards and synthesizers dominate all compositions in this case too. Multiple layers of sounds are a constant feature throughout, and in most instances a composition will open with a limited number of layers, slowly expanding in numbers and intensity. Most layers will flow in wavelike patterns, rising and falling in strength and intensity. Most will have clear and distinct symphonic qualities as well, either directly or indirectly influenced by classical symphonic music. A common feature of this facet of the compositions is clever use of contrasts to create nerve and tension in the compositions, mixing dark, ominous floating layers or generated rhythmic sounds with lighter, floating and at times ethereal layers. A direct result of these multi-layered, contrasting and mostly floating textures is a distinct spacey mood, even more so than on his debut. A nice addition to the creations of Bartlett this time around is the more extensive inclusion of other instruments. Drums and percussion are added to the electronic rhythmical sounds in many passages, adding an additional dimension to these passages. Atmospheric guitar soloing was also a common feature on Bartlett's debut release, but on this sophomore effort acoustic guitars are given much space as well, and the piano is also used more extensively. This mix of electronic, electric and acoustic instruments in mostly slow-moving compositions results in a complex, intriguing and rather compelling soundscape, and while the music is just about as relaxing as on his debut these additional musical attributes also make the songs more interesting from a purely musical point of view. The addition of real background vocals complementing the choir-like effects from the synths this time around is another feature that has given Bartlett even more room within to maneuver. Bartlett has chosen to use the vocals alongside rhythms, as well as the guitar in some pieces, to create passages with strong leanings towards world music most times, further expanding the musical scope of his compositions. In total this adds up to a strong and compelling production, with a form of symphonic electronic music as the foundation for the compositions. The slow pace and heavy use of synthesizers ultimately makes this a new age release first and foremost, but this time around many of the tunes have strong leanings towards symphonic rock as well as folk and world music. All varieties of compositions share one common feature as well - distinct space-like moods and atmospheres. As with the debut album by Bartlett, the production and mix of this release appears to be flawless; instruments and sounds are enhanced and subdued expertly to fit in with each other and even the minutest details of the compositions come across crisp and clear.
As with the debut album by Bartlett, this is a perfect example of excellently written and performed relaxing music and this time around the individual compositions are highly compelling from a musical standpoint as well; this is a release that may appeal even to listeners normally not interested in new age music. Followers of relaxing, meditative music may arguably be the core audience for this production as well, but fans of spacey music and symphonic rock might also find this creation rather compelling. Pretty close to brilliant in most aspects, Bartlett should take many listeners on a sonic journey to other dimensions and alternative planes of existence with this fine release.