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A DA Dan Herrmann reviews HEMISPHERE

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Inventive, engaging, and absolutely enjoyable.

Inventive, engaging, and absolutely enjoyable. That’s my summation of Geoffrey Armes’ new CD, Hemisphere. Downright jazzy and spiced with world-beat overtones, Hemisphere is a unique experiment in music. The tracks here began their life as improvised pieces performed live to accompany a dance troupe’s performance, with Armes playing keys, synth and a Roland Handsonic for percussion. He then took the improv’d tracks into his studio and added to and augmented them, deepening the sound and truly enhancing the original ideas. Part of what makes this interesting is that Armes keeps the room’s environmental sounds in the tracks. Voices, applause, background sounds—they all become part of the experience of each song, a reminder of the stepping-off point. By and large, Hemisphere is a good collection of interesting blends of style. I like the pairing of an almost military-cadence drum with a techno feel at the beginning of “The Neighborhood Dubhouse” and the Blue Note-style cool that washes through “Light Fantastic Trip.” In some tracks (“Light Fantastic,” for example) it seems that Armes feels the need to add too much. These pieces lose their way a bit, but the elements are there, and solid. It just the sense of missing the mark by a hair. Conversely, when he hits it spot on, it’s an intense pleasure to listen to. “Endless Mansion” is such a track, with a strutting bossanova base and snappy Latin percussion. The hard funk of “Geology” is peppered with hard-charging guitar work, a meaty bass line and solid 70s-jazz electric keys. “With Clarity” is a great closer to the disc, deep and playfully uptempo with more of those background sounds adding character—particularly when it sounds like a little group chant! The best track here, though, is “Ancient Flow,” which pairs a swaying, drum-driven beat with a vocal sample filtered to sound like a didgeridoo. It’s simply hypnotic, a close-your-eyes-and-go ride. Hemisphere has proven itself to be a pleasant surprise across several welcome repeat listens. Armes’ construction is superb; there’s a lot of thought and soul showing through in the tracks here. I’m looking forward to more from him—and soon.