Album Review—"The Place Between Time" by Michael Vignola
Michael Vignola is a NYC based composer. His music fits into the sphere of ambient minimalism alongside composers like Johann Johannsson, Max Richter, Hans Zimmer and Olafur Arnalds. He’s done extensive work for film and televison. He says that he loves to build themes that weave in and out of a storyline.
The very first thing that struck me upon listening to his album The Place Between Time was just how very delicate it sounds. All of the instruments hover in a gentle tension with each other and wash the ear in round sounds that ebb and flow.
Although the album is minimalist, it’s not the austere minimalism that characterizes some other avant garde composers, but one that allows the emotional content of the music take centre stage and cuts out any unnecessary elements that distract from it.
At first, the album is especially stripped down. All one hears is the interplay between piano and violin delivered with delicacy and elegance. This produces a sensation of floating while still being grounded by the patterns of chords that underpin the music.
On the fifth track, Majestic, more instruments swell up to add fullness to the sound. This expansion of the sound carries the mind on a wave that lifts it upwards. The harmonic interplay in the track is skillfully done and adds to the aural interest of the music. The album continues to have this full, rich sound over the next couple of tracks before settling back down into a quieter conclusion.
While full harmonics, sustained background notes and repetitive patterns are most evident on this album, the moments where melodies do appear are worth the wait. These melodies are beautiful and warm and still the mind. It seems to me that they arrive at the points where they are most needed to add another layer of sound to the whole album.
Some might criticize the album for lacking darker or heavier elements, but in a world of unsettling and difficult situations, I feel that there is a space for art that calms, stills and warms the mind. There is, also, a certain sort of gentle melancholy that suffuses the music and is perhaps even more poignant than something more deliberately dark or heavy within the context of the music.
The production of the album is well done. Everything has a clarity to it and the choices made enhance the overall delicate, serene emotional landscape that Vignola has crafted. It allows the music to deliver its emotional weight in the most effective way. The production lead to the feeling that I was being transported on a lush bed of sound.
The Place Between Time strikes me as a complete, cohesive work in which each track builds on the next. The dense interactions between instruments, harmonies, chords and background repetitions produces an effect that soothes. I still found it engaging and it something melancholy and wistful within me. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to slow down, rest the mind and just allow a little beauty into our lives. The Place Between Time is a good way to do so.