C.R. Gillespie's 'Concentration Patterns' Succeeds When Its Sound and Sentiment Line Up
Published May 15, 2020Concentration Patterns began as a private practice. Looking to quell the constant buzz of anxiety pervading his physical and mental spaces, C.R. Gillespie took to the hum of his home studio's analog gear. The result is a 75-minute long ambient suite that succeeds when its sound and sentiment line up.
The album is at its best when it is melodically understated. The first 20 minutes are centred on the pulsing, wave-like synthesizer tones that serve as the undercurrent of Gillespie's previous offerings. Compared to his earlier works, they're warmer, more protracted and draw more explicitly on the artist's coastal upbringing on Vancouver Island. By writing from what and where he knows, Gillespie proves adept at roping even the most hardened of deep listeners into his world.
Recordings of the outside world, such as the rail line bustling outside of Gillespie's window, serve as a reminder that there are forces outside one's own psyche that hold things together when you can't quite do that work yourself. When we hear the blending of the environment into the soundscape, however momentary and subdued, is when Concentration Patterns is most poignant.
The record trips up when Gillespie introduces elements that are more figurative. The prepared guitar strums and keyboard melodies that appear closer to the middle of the suite take the listener out of their element and momentarily undue the scene Gillespie so patiently sets up. The same is true of the last two distinct movements of the suite, which introduce sounds more synthetic and pitches more warbling than would have been appropriate minutes earlier. The result is variety at the expense of introducing a sense of uneasiness antithetical to the comfort established throughout much of Concentration Patterns.
Listeners who find themselves drawn in after a listen should take advantage of Gillespie's suggestion that certain movements of the piece be accompanied by complementary sine tones. Sine tone generators are easily found online and the activity adds a participatory depth to Concentration Patterns that makes it that much more effective at seizing some affective control.