|People, places, and photos are some of the inspirations Camiré drew on when creating his debut album's nine ambient compositions. Together with collaborators 'cloud guitarist' Jon Durant and violinist Caryn Lyn, the veteran keyboardist attempts to bridge the fleeting with the unforgettable via low-key, synth-driven explorations that balance sound and silence to make their point. "I wasn't solely interested in composing music which featured what the industry refers to as a hook," explains Camiré of the disc's approach. "Instead, I wanted the album to reflect and point the listener towards a mindstate which in turn becomes the hook." The album's intense subtlety inevitably leads to intense subjectivity. Whether Fourteen Years is nirvana or numbing entirely depends on a listener's ability to embrace music that envelops, rather than engulfs their environment.
William Camiré, Fourteen Years is subtitled "An Excursion Into Autobiography," indicating the music within is very personal and deeply emotional. After listening to it a few times, it's not hard to hear just that in these subtle and, at times, beautiful tone poems.
The first cut, "Preface," is an assortment of sampled dialog (maybe family members?) mixed in with industrial noise-type background and odd percussive effects. This abrupt beginning (even for an Alchemy release) last only two minutes and flows effortlessly into the somber and gently forboding synth strains of "Premonition." This piece should appeal to fans of Tim Story. It has the same fragile sad chamber-like sound to it, albeit a little fuller at times. The next song, the title track, is another softly elgaic ode to reflection. I can't help but think this music is almost too personal at times. I feel a little voyeuristic listening to it.The music for this album was originally composed between 1982 and 1985. This recording is a remix of those earlier pieces although Fourteen Years never sounds dated to my ears.
From the soft title track we venture into the quirky "Patchouli" with delicate percussive effects and chiming synth notes. It's almost playful, except that it's so drenched in a feeling of nostalgia (can't explain why I feel it this way but I do) that it comes across as introspective.
The sound of thunder opens "From a Distant Shore" while low droning synths hover in the background. Jon Durant lends his "cloud guitars" to this song and they're in the mix with his special brand of magic, as they swirl and weave around the synths and percussion that come and go in the song. This song is vaguely dark ambient with tribal elements, albeit run through the Alchemy blender.
Labelmate and electric violinist Caryn Lin also guests on "The Girl Who Makes You Cry Is Always Love" and it's here that I finally heard prototypical Alchemy Records-type music. Caryn's violin sings of pain and loss and dark clouds of despair as it winds its way through this piec. Very sad stuff, indeed, to my ears (and a tad discordant at times, so be forewarned).
By the end of the CD, with the song "Monument Beach," we're in very introspective territory again, as we hear wind chimes buffeted by wind (on the coast no doubt) while synths rise and fall in the background amidst some kind of percussive effects. More sampled dialog closes out the album as well.
As with all releases from Alchemy, this is not an "easy" listen. At times very accessible, at other times very original and personal, it's another in this label's catalog that's designed to set trends, not follow them. In addition, it represents a very personal statement from an artist whom I hope tot hear more from in the future.
-Bill Binkelman, Wind & Wire Magazine