Album Review: Ezra Feinberg -‘Soft Power’: sensational music of gentle persuasion from the New York guitarist/composer.

The Breakdown

The impact of this beautifully aligned collection is deceptive. The album may seem unobtrusive, even restrained but Feinberg’s nurtured pieces have you returning again and again
Tonal Union 9.0

There is a cosmos of ambient instrumental music out there, so finding something with a distinctive sparkle, which really adds to the dimension can be time consuming. This is where Ezra Feinberg, the Hudson Valley multi-instrumentalist and composer often sidles into the picture. Founder member of San Fran new age psych band Citay, where Feinberg began exploring more fluid atmospheres, he’s now releasing his third solo album in a canon of work that sees his individual voice becoming ever clearer. Following on from 2018’s ‘Pentimento & Others’ then ‘Recumbent Speech’ in 2020, this year welcomes perhaps his most insightful and endearing album so far, the appropriately titled ‘Soft Power’(via Tonal Union).

The impact of this beautifully aligned collection is deceptive. The album may seem unobtrusive, even restrained but Feinberg’s nurtured pieces have you returning again and again. There’s a sustaining quality about them from the gossamer light opener Future Sands, with its synth whispers and Sakamoto-shaded melodic patterns, to the closing, simple innocence of the folksy Get Some Rest. In both songs Feinberg’s wistful guitar patter allows for momentum and magic to float side by side, while breathy flutes, glowing piano tones and hushed synths add intricate detail. Mary Lattimore’s sprinkling of harp on Get Some Rest sums up the emotional consideration that’s embroidered through ‘Soft Power’.

What Feinberg does so well, and in some ways the dimension of his music that has developed most on this new album, is the subtle shift in dynamics he achieves without knocking the music’s coherent poise. No tracks butt up against each other and neither do they blur into one. Take luscious acoustic jazz fusion of Flutter Intensity as it skips along to Metheny-like arpeggios and the lightest rhumba rhythm while a bubbly conversation between synth and Russell Greenberg’s vibes burbles on.

Then there’s the album’s title track, which cycles around a rippling acoustic guitar sequence with an airy urgency and purpose. Cruising jauntily between the margins of MOR and avant pop with that assurance you find on Sandro Perri recordings, it has an honest joy in the grooves. Feinberg’s proposal that underpins the album is that “the most unexpected, unpredictable and spontaneous moments in life lie in the realms of softness“. This tune more than underlines that point.

His other aim for the music on ‘Soft Power’ is that the pieces either blossom out gradually or ease you into “a dream that feels like it could go on forever“. Such suspended moments perhaps peak on the moonbeams and shadows of There was Somebody There, a gleaming ambient depiction where guest David Moore’s piano rings in a dramatic flourish.

Feinberg has always made solo recordings which thrive on such collaborative input and that approach is taken again on ‘Soft Power‘ with familiar associate John Thayer handling co-production and Robbie Lee on occasional piano. Elsewhere other contributions include the animated freshness of David Lackner’s flute and clarinet as well as Jefre-Cantu Ledesma’s fluent synth calligraphy. This ensemble dynamic really thrives on the more episodic tracks on the album. Pose Beams bobs sunnily, Ledesma’s lapping synth pattern mingling with the new age flow and Robbie Lee’s carefully paced piano progression. The ruffled free form closing section is an ingenious twist, all skittering drums and agile improv command.

The Big Clock is even more expansive, a pivotal moment on ‘Soft Power’ where Feinberg stretches the juxtaposition of delicacy and impact even further. It’s an instrumental tryptch, the opening, all John Martyn reverberations and harmonic echoes, setting up an expectant cosmic possibility. The trajectory then takes a kosmische turn when Brin Hewitt’s vocal coding ushers in a motor-driven shimmy emboldened by parabolic, Zawinul synth flurries. Wispy percussion trails and distant piano chimes see The Big Clock’s momentum gradually slowing.

The track sums up the sculpted undulations of this album. As a whole ‘Soft Power’ glides through its soundscapes with a natural freedom using Feinberg’s sophisticated compass as a guide. Along the way it calmly maps out an experience which is quietly but unquestionably sensational.

Get your copy of ‘Soft Power‘ by Ezra Feinberg from your local record store or direct from Tonal Union HERE

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