Yosemite Valley of the Giants
2006 / Gemini Sun
Review by Michael Debbage
With recordings as far back as 1992’s sensational debut Olympia, this explorative artist has presented his audience with a diversified musical portfolio. This includes the critically acclaimed electronic Eleventh Hour series along with the hauntingly beautiful lullabies of the reflective Sapphire Dreams just to name a few. However, this time around Lasar revisits the National Park theme and pays tribute to the majestic and mystical Yosemite. Musically it lives up to the integrate details and mammoth proportions of the park it is paying its respect to.
Lasar’s prior tribute to one of America’s national treasures was back in 1996 when he released The Music of Olympic National Park. Though enjoyable, the musical landscape that he created was accompanied by nature’s soundscaping to the point that it was distracting. Musically, the shades and tones were darker with a more ambient feel to it. Yosemite includes these previously mentioned methods; however, Lasar is more restraint and also places greater emphasis on the melody.
The album begins with the melodic “Mirror Lake” that flows effortlessly into “El Capitan” which is essentially the second movement of its predecessor. Initiated with gorgeous string arrangements, the song is then driven by the intricate yet smooth percussion arrangement. The latter is revisited on “Tioga Road” countered by what sounds like bamboo flutes. Even better, there is a beautiful tempo and rhythm of the strings and percussion that illustrates the flow and pulse of the “Merced River”. It is almost impossible not to sway with the music as it curves and bends gently while it trails and fades to its conclusion. Simply put, this is Mars Lasar at his best.
Yosemite also has its reflective moments best heard courtesy of the opening chords of “Glacier Point”. While the composition is embellished a little as the song progresses, its theme is certainly more in the lullaby frame. This theme is repeated by the more organic “Wilderness Trail” that also features the warmth of the acoustic guitar. Frankly, there is very little to find fault with about this magnificent tribute. Lasar does well to incorporate a few tracks that are more detached and spatial such as the Vangelis influenced “Sentinel Meadows”. However, Lasar is wise to close out the album with the more regal and dramatic concluder “Valley of The Giants” that also features the soft chanting of Jennifer Spalding.
From the minuscule microscopic organic details of the shrub to the majestic redwoods and valleys of towering mountains and cascading waterfalls of Yosemite, the music of Lasar reflects and ponders the landscape he pays tribute to. Whether dealing in details of shades and tones or broad strokes of it’s majestically beauty, Lasar once again manipulates and reflects a musical landscape that is breathtaking and wondrous.
June 6, 2006