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Michael Whalen: The Border of Dusk

Known for film scores and dreamy new age material, composer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Whalen offers lush settings and visually evocative melodies on The Border of Dusk (Koch Jazz KOC-CD-7891; 52:52). Whalen’s compositions are complex and varied mood-paintings-where “Subterranean Daydream” sets a ringing, vibes-like melody over an echoing percussive ride and distant guitar bits for a vivid picture of the urban jungle, “The Border of Dusk” wraps dark bass and sequenced synthesizer textures around a deceptively simple piano line for a serene effect. The composer often pits busy rhythms against gentle melodies, effectively conveying a peaceful, optimistic center at the heart of “A World in Fast Forward,” for example. Unlike many new age composers, whose thoughts get lost in synth-wash mush, Whalen offers clear, accessible melodies and distinguished musicianship. His stylized, off-center keyboard play on the bluesy “Waiting for the Lights to Change,” for example, is one of the album’s unexpected highlights.

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