Guitarist Derri Daugherty has released his first album of ambient instrumental music – a project that many have considered long overdue. His output with the Choir has always been built upon the ethereal textures of his guitar, so Clouds Echo in Blue feels like a natural step.
Given the purity of Daugherty’s clear tenor voice as an instrument unto itself, few have actually complained when tracks intended for this long-promised project evolved into Choir songs, as several (including the sparse and haunting “Say Goodbye to Neverland”) did for 2010’s Burning Like the Midnight Sun. The close proximity of Clouds Echo in Blue to the recent Choir LP and their shared pool of source material join the two albums as companion pieces, despite the fact that Daugherty’s guitar is the sole common thread.
“The Sound at the End of the World” introduces the set, drifting as a formless curtain of shimmering sound. It’s like a soundtrack for the fading aurora borealis.
When present at all, the rhythm section plays a supporting role to layers of Daugherty’s sparklilng guitar. Ken Lewis‘ drumming on the chiming “Tonight the Stars Shine” provides a spirited but tastefully understated pulse reminiscent of The Church‘s Tim Powles, and has a distinctly different feel than Steve Hindalong‘s beautifully quirky drumming for the Choir. Though Chris Donohue‘s bass on the song is typically inventive and in the pocket, it doesn’t command attention in the way that Tim Chandler‘s playing frequently does.
“This is How I Feel” is cut from similar cloth to recent instrumental output by ex-Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie, comparing very favorably. Other general touchstones for songs like “The Color of Dreams” include Sigur Ros side project Riceboy Sleeps. The spacious, spaghetti-Western twang of “Where Did Winter Go” probably has more in common with Moon Seven Times guitarist Henry Frayne‘s output as Lanterna than with the Hammock projects by Daugherty’s own collaborator Marc Byrd, but a healthy portion of the latter is heard during the distant, swirling echoes of “My Imaginary Friend.”
All in, Clouds Echo in Blue is an elegant collection of evocative, heavenly tones. Let’s hope that Daugherty’s gotten the bug and continues to work in this genre, which (at least in the fine example of Hammock) he had a hand in inspiring in the first place. (cloudsechoinblue.com)