We celebrate a master of Mood and ambience with Patrick O’Hearn-Then & Now
Patrick O’Hearn has been one of the defining voices of modern electronic music. Until the rise of Yanni, he was the signature artists of the Private Music label. Since his debut album, Ancient Dreams in 1985, he’s continued releasing finely crafted, deeply textured music on CDs like Eldorado and So Flows the Current. There’s a depth to Patrick O’Hearn’s music that comes from a wide range of experience, from straight ahead jazz with Charles Lloyd to MTV pop with Missing Persons; from sarcastic rock and roll with Frank Zappa to ethereal new age on his own. The fact that he’s a fine bassist as well as keyboardist has always given O’Hearn’s music a darker, soulful edge. Patrick is one of the Icons of Echoes, and 25 years later, his first album still sounds as seductive and timeless as his latest. O’Hearn has been keeping a low profile for most of this century. We’ll be featuring his music next Wednesday on Echoes.
FIVE BEST PATRICK O’HEARN ALBUMS
This isn’t the obvious choice, but it’s an album that showed O’Hearn pushing back on expectations. So much so that it’s the release that began his exit from the Private Music label. Eldorado bristles with rhythmic drive on tracks like “Amazon Waltz” and “Nepalese Tango,” and dark, threatening atmospheres on the title track and “Black Delilah. O’Hearn was so far ahead of the Persian fusion curve that it hadn’t been drawn yet. Shahla Sarshar‘s impassioned vocal on “Hear Our Prayer” lifts to the skies. “Delicate,” with the layered wordless vocals of Ina Wolf may be the most purely beautiful song O’Hearn has recorded.
2 Ancient Dreams
Patrick O’Hearn’s 1985 album, Ancient Dreams was a road map of mood and mystery. Using percussion samples and the breathy voices of the PPG Wave synthesizer, his compositions combined the earthy darkness of African music, but with haunting melodies that hinted at places either just beyond our perceptions, or perhaps deep inside. It was the second release on Private Music and established the early identity of the label. I’d say it was the best album they released.
Indigo was Patrick O’Hearn’s swan song on Private Music and may be his most perfectly realized album. He proves himself a master of mood on “Devil’s Lake,” which rolls ominously like an empty train at midnight or “Upon the Wings of Night,” with Mark Isham’s mournful flugelhorn cast against a wash of synthesizers, drones and mysterious punctuations. “The Ringmaster’s Dream” seduces you with slow motion melodies, only to pull back the curtains to reveal a carnival midway that’s part funhouse, part Kurt Weill, and part the Beatles’ “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” with its swirling calliope.
4 So Flows the Current
There was a more organic feel to So Flows the Current than in past O’Hearn albums. He said they used no MIDI or sequencing on the album and I believe it. Although O’Hearn’s music has never sounded wooden, the textures here roll more naturally, the nuances of performance are a bit more telling. And then there’s the guitar of Peter Maunu. His mostly acoustic strings are a warm sound in the grey field of O’Hearn’s arrangements. Maunu explodes into “Northwest Passage” with rippling arpeggios over a snake bitten desert groove.
This was his first album on his own Deep Cave label and it picked up on themes from Indigo with rich layers of synthesizers, often outlined by the rubbery melodies of his electric and acoustic basses. O’Hearn is helped out by some old friends on a few tracks including Zappa/Missing Persons mate Terry Bozzio and guitarists Peter Maunu and David Torn. But they are just part of O’Hearn’s textures as he creates moods of dark foreboding and menace. Percussive rhythms tug on the subconscious like a primal shadow, yet beneath it all is a sense of resigned heroism that marks the difference between despair and affirmation.
I could of easily picked a least three other O’Hearn albums to put in this list.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))