Album Review: Cellophane Garden – Illuminations

When you think of a musician holed up in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas creating music amongst those storied wooded hills, the sound that comesgarden to mind is a particular one. That sound probably isn’t of the atmospheric and spatial variety, but more of the old time-y, bluegrass variety. In fact spatial, atmospheric, dreamy, and drone-y are exactly what you’ll find on Cellophane Garden’s debut vinyl release called Illuminations. Cellophane Garden is the musical project of musician and vinyl record curator Kevin Blagg. Blagg, along with percussionist J. Seymore, have cultivated a beautifully textured album that feels as melodically rich as it does artistically satisfying.

Blagg, armed with electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizers, echo systems, and a healthy dose of sound collaging has sewn together musical patterns and shapes into Brian Eno-esque walls of noise. “Mystic Maneuver” floats along a steady stream of flanged tones. It sounds like thoughts and ideas floating through the ether. It has the feel of a sci fi score. “Voice of Sonar Healing” is a beautifully textured piece. It’s 9 minutes of exquisite melody. Nostalgic like looking over a ridge and to the sea, thinking of all those who’ve come and gone in your life. Blagg seems to be channeling some classic 4AD sounds here, with Cocteau Twins coming to mind. But beyond inspirations and influences, “Voice of Sonar Healing” is just a beautiful piece of music. It’s new age-y, in that you can see someone falling into deep thought while listening to this song and finding some greater truth. But if that phrase bugs you, then we can just say it’s some seriously heady sounds. “Illuminations” squawks and squeals like a rusted wheel spinning in a cave as synths trail underneath all the noise.

Elsewhere, “High Frequency Blue” has the desolate sound of a rugged, earthier Tangerine Dream. The acoustic guitar and electronic percussion seem to have been made for independent film. It has a real cinematic feel. “Hiss is Bliss” uses the electric guitar to wonderful effect, filling the spaces with subtle nuance. The mix of acoustic and electronic instruments helps to give a very organic feel throughout the album. Kevin Blagg and J. Seymore have built a mysterious musical world here, one that ebbs and flows between bittersweet and darker tones.

Cellophane Garden’s Illuminations is a vast musical landscape that seems to beckon from some far-reaching realm. The Ozarks of northwest Arkansas have bestowed upon Kevin Blagg a sense of journey and spatial exploration. He’s created musical worlds for us to get lost in. It’s a soundtrack for the moment where the mountain meets the sky and that overwhelming sense that comes over you when you reach it.

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