Dominic Miller: Silent Light (ECM 2518)

Silent Light

Dominic Miller
Silent Light

Dominic Miller guitar, electric bass
Miles Bould percussion, drums
Recorded March 2016 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 7, 2017

As guitarist Dominic Miller recalls in this CD’s liner notes, when approached by producer Manfred Eicher to make an album for ECM, he discussed various musicians and configurations before deciding to go solo. Having grown up in Argentina, Miller was indelibly influenced by Latin American sounds, and counts Egberto Gismonti’s Solo and Pat Metheny’s Offramp as watershed listening experiences. Since living in the UK and now in France, he has worked with Phil Collins, Paul Simon, and Sting, among others, all the while developing his own voice. As Sting himself writes in a supplementary note: “[W]henever Dominic plays the guitar he creates colour, a complete spectrum of emotions, sonic architecture built of resonance as well as silence, he lifts the spirit into higher realms, perhaps those realms where silence reigns.” And perhaps no other combination of location, timing, and circumstance could have produced something that so beautifully lives up to that assessment.

In thinking about the genesis of Silent Light, Miller turned to percussionist and longtime collaborator, Miles Bould, whose applications seem born of the guitar’s deepest imaginings. As it happened, the night before the recording, Bould learned that the great Brazilian percussionist and ECM veteran Nana Vasconcelos had just passed away, lending the session heartfelt poignancy. That said, there’s so much joy to be found that one would need to listen most attentively to find a single tear.

The strains of “What You Didn’t Say” delineate an opening portal, beyond which personal interactions float along waves of gentlest memory, barely detailed by percussion amid Miller’s speechless legibility. So begins a journey of concentric circles, each a band of influence along the surface of the composer’s life. From the Venezuelan flavor of “Urban Waltz” and laid-back precision of “Baden” (dedicated to Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell) to the Celtic folk-inspired “Angel” and early 20th-century French stylings of “Le Pont,” a red thread of respect runs unbroken and with clarity of purpose to a tender, solo rendition of Sting’s “Fields Of Gold.”

If anything further unites these pieces, it’s that they all seem to follow—rather than issue from—the guitar as if it were a compass attuned to melodic north. One feels this especially in “Water,” “En Passant,” and “Chaos Theory,” the latter of which navigates shimmering harmonies by the addition of bass and drums for a feeling that is decidedly crystalline, transparent, and honest. Like the recording as a whole, it is intimate without being invasive, allows no room for misinterpretation, and is as comforting as waking up knowing the only thing required of you is to listen…and to love.

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